Did a Philadelphia altar boy lie about sex abuse? Newsweek investigates.

Serious questions have been raised about the credibility of the young man whose accusations landed four men—including Msgr. William Lynn—in jail.

Newsweek has published an in-depth investigation into the accuser behind a Philadelphia sex-abuse scandal that landed four men in prison, including two priests and a former priest. Under the provocative headline “Catholic Guilt? The Lying, Scheming Altar Boy Behind a Lurid Rape Case,” the article by Ralph Cipriano details the numerous gaping holes in the story—or stories—Daniel Gallagher (“Billy Doe” in court proceedings) told of having been raped by two priests and schoolteacher as a fifth- and sixth-grader.

One of the priests jailed in the case is Msgr. William Lynn, who was found guilty in 2012 of child endangerment for allowing a priest accused of sexual abuse to have contact with children. A former official for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Msgr. Lynn was the first Church administrator in the US to receive a criminal conviction for his handling of sex-abuse allegations.

One of the three men Gallagher accused of rape, Father Charles Engelhardt, died in prison in 2014, having rejected a deal that would have kept him out of jail but would have required him to plead guilty to a crime he maintained to the end he didn’t commit.

The archdiocese settled with Gallagher last August for an estimated $5 million, Cipriano reports.

In October, Gallagher underwent a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation by Dr. Stephan Mechanick. From Newsweek:

Gallagher admitted he lied and provided “unreliable information” to Mechanick about his substance abuse and psychiatric history, as well as his personal and medical background. After a painstaking review of the subject’s medical records gathered from 28 different drug rehab facilities, hospitals, doctors and drug counselors Gallagher visited, the psychiatrist wrote that Gallagher admitted he was “not always honest with his medical providers.” Such as in 2007 and again in 2011, when he claimed to be a paramedic and a professional surfer who had to give up the sport because of his drug addiction; he also claimed to have suffered a herniated disc. …

All that might be dismissed as trivial, but Gallagher had also provided “conflicting and unreliable information” about his history of sexual abuse, as well as “conflicting and unreliable information” about the specifics of the alleged attacks by the two priests and schoolteacher, Mechanick wrote. “It is not possible to conclude to a reasonable degree of psychiatric or psychological certainty that Mr. Gallagher was sexually abused as a child,” Mechanick added. 

The psychiatrist isn’t the only person deeply skeptical of Billy Doe and his stories. The detective who led the Philadelphia district attorney’s investigation into Gallagher’s allegations against the priests and teacher also has some disturbing doubts. In a confidential deposition obtained by Newsweek, retired Detective Joseph Walsh was asked on January 29, 2015, about nine significant factual discrepancies in Gallagher’s story. The detective testified that when he questioned Gallagher about those discrepancies, Gallagher usually just sat there and said nothing. Or claimed he was high on drugs at the time. Or told a different story.

Father Engelhardt died in prison; former priest Edward Avery and teacher Bernard Shero are still in jail. As for Msgr. Lynn, his future is uncertain:

In Philadelphia, the Billy Doe case remains front-page news three years after the original trial that convicted Lynn. On December 22, the Pennsylvania state Superior Court for the second time overturned Lynn’s conviction and ordered a new trial. A three-judge panel ruled that the trial judge in the case, M. Teresa Sarmina, abused her discretion when she admitted into evidence against the monsignor 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse dating back to 1948, three years before the 64-year-old Lynn was born.

Lynn, however, isn’t getting out of jail anytime soon. He continues to work for 19 cents an hour as a prison librarian, pending an appeal by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. The DA last month filed a petition to reargue the case before all nine judges on the appeals court. Also blocking Lynn’s release is Sarmina, who has repeatedly denied his applications for bail.

Lynn had served 18 months of his three- to six-year prison sentence on December 26, 2013, when the Superior Court reversed his conviction and ordered that he be “discharged forthwith.” But Sarmina ordered that Lynn be kept under house arrest in a church rectory and forced to wear an electronic ankle bracelet.

On April 27, 2015, the reversal was reversed by Pennsylvania’s highest court, and the DA filed a motion to revoke his bail. Sarmina agreed and, after 16 months of house arrest, sent Lynn back to prison.

At a December 28 press conference, DA Williams vowed to do whatever it takes to keep Lynn in jail, “where he belongs,” including, if necessary, a retrial.

 


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About Catherine Harmon 573 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.