The wild and varying claims of abuse made by accuser Dan Gallagher that jailed Philadelphia priest Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former teacher Bernard Shero were "an x-rated fractured fairy tale" that "defied logic and common sense" and should have had Gallagher "laughed out of the D.A.'s office."
Veteran journalist Ralph Cipriano, who has tenaciously uncovered the vast web of fraud and corruption in the prosecution of Catholic clergy, is continuing his fight to spread the truth about the wrongful convictions that have now imprisoned innocent men for crimes they did not commit.
Justice out the window
Cipriano now reports that the trial last January took on the scene of a prosecutorial bullying match, further underscoring the miscarriage of justice in Philadelphia:
- "many times" during the trial the jury "seemed to be dozing or nodding off, [yet] the one time they did pay attention though was when [Gallagher] took the stand";
- the presiding judge, Ellen Ceisler, was "more concerned about breaking for lunch at the right time, and sending the jury home at a reasonable hour, rather than justice"; and
- the trial actually began with the court crier reading aloud criminal offenses against the defendants that they weren't even charged with.
While it is well known – and expected – that prosecutors question adversarial witnesses aggressively, Cipriano observes, "There was an ugly edge to this trial." The Philly D.A.'s Office went well above and beyond mere diligent examination when questioning defense witnesses. They were barbaric, as Cipriano describes:
"Prosecutors know how to destroy ordinary citizens who didn't go to law school. They know how to win arguments. They know how to make the rest of us look stupid.
"In this case, the lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti, used those tactics against a hapless archdiocese social worker, and a bunch of veteran Catholic elementary school teachers who had no reason to lie. A trained legal pugilist took turns beating up a bunch of middle-aged women. It was sickening to watch.
"The prosecutors played a brutal game here."
Judicial nastinessAnd the mean-spiritedness did not end at the conclusion of the trial. At the sentencing hearing earlier this month, Judge Ellen Ceisler issued brutal sentences against Engelhardt and Shero far exceeding the sentencing guidelines for the two men.
The cruelty of it all brought the families of both men to tears in the courtroom. And, according to Cipriano, what happened next is simply unbelievable:
"The judge had just hammered the defendants with long jail terms for crimes that never happened. The families of both men were sobbing.
"The court crier, previously noted for her inaccuracy in reading the actual charges against the defendants, went over to the grieving relatives and ordered every sobbing one of them to leave.
"'We're not allowed to cry?' asked Tracey Boyle, Father Engelhardt's niece.
"No, Tracey. When Judge Ellen Ceisler sends your beloved uncle the priest off to jail for a crime he didn't commit, you're not even allowed to cry about it."
Bye-bye to bigotryCipriano correctly notes that this "travesty of justice" in Philadelphia began a "kangaroo court known as the grand jury," resulting in an "intellectually dishonest and error-filled grand jury report [which] was then trumpeted as gospel by the press."
Indeed, for over two years, the mainstream media acted as nothing less than the public relations arm for Philly District Attorney Seth Williams in his over-heated prosecution of Catholic clergy, never even questioning the legitimacy of Dan Gallagher's far-fetched claims, even though mounds of exculpatory evidence sat right in front of them.
In fact, according to Cipriano, when it came time for the trial, "The defense case was based almost entirely on the findings of the district attorney's own detectives … There was no evidence or witnesses that supported any of [Gallagher's] stories."
Whether it was simple journalistic laziness or bigotry against the Catholic Church, it was gross journalistic malfeasance, and there is no excuse for it.
Yet with so many people behind the witch hunt that unfolded in Philadelphia, Philly Assistant D.A. Mariana Sorensen deserves special notice.
Sorensen was a lead author of both the 2005 and 2011 grand jury reports targeting the Catholic Church. And much of what she crafted was pure fiction. (For a rebuttal to the 2005 report, see this. For a rebuttal to the 2011 report, see this and this.)
Now, Cipriano has exclusively reported that Sorensen left her job at the Philly D.A.'s Office last Friday.
A spokesperson for the district attorney's office told Cipriano that it was "ridiculous" that her departure had anything to do with her two bogus reports.
Cipriano asked us to respond with a comment about Sorensen's exit, and we kindly obliged. Check it out.