KEY Witness in Philadelphia Abuse Case Lied to Investigators
By Michael O'Loughlin
January 20, 2016
|Daniel Gallagher, left, said in 2011 that two priests and a Catholic schoolteacher had raped him in the late 1990s. One of those priests, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, right, died in prison in 2014 after being denied a heart operation. (Left photo by Daniel Gallagher / Right photo by AP)|
Did a Philadelphia priest die in prison, falsely accused of sexual abuse by an unreliable witness who was desperate to please overzealous prosecutors?
That’s the suggestion of a Newsweek cover story whose author obtained a psychiatric evaluation of Daniel Gallagher, who in 2011 said two priests and a Catholic schoolteacher had raped him in the late 1990s.
His testimony led to a child-endangerment conviction for the Rev. William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s former secretary of clergy and the first Church official to go to jail for child endangerment. It also led to the imprisonment of the teacher and the two priests.
One of those priests, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, died in prison in 2014 after being denied a heart operation.
Gallagher was the subject of a 2011 Rolling Stone story written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the reporter who wrote the now discredited story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia.
Through that story, Gallagher became known as “Billy Doe,” and horrifying details about the assaults he said he endured while serving as an altar boy were seared into the minds of Philadelphia Catholics reeling from revelations of clergy sexual abuse.
In 2015, the Archdioceses of Philadelphia settled a civil suit with Gallagher, allegedly for $5 million.
But according to the evaluation obtained by Newsweek, Gallagher admitted lying about several details from his past, and he is described as “immature and self-indulgent, manipulating others to his own ends.”
Gallagher, who was addicted to drugs and alcohol when he made his allegations, lied about what he did for a living, is said to have lied about experiencing other episodes sexual abuse as a child, and lied about the onset of physical illness following the alleged abuse.
But what troubles defense attorneys and observers of the case is that Gallagher changed his story about the alleged abuse at least nine times during the investigation. When confronted with the inconsistencies by detectives, he refused to answer or blamed the changes on drug use.
In a 2015 deposition, one of the detectives who investigated the case cast doubt on the veracity of Gallagher’s allegations.
The grand jury report based on Gallagher’s testimony contains about 20 factual errors, according to Newsweek. One of those inaccuracies is ascribing changes in Gallager’s personality to the alleged abuse, rather than to drug use in high school, which his parents testified altered their son’s behavior.
Today, Gallagher lives in Florida with his wife and child. The two surviving priests and the teacher remain in jail, and the religious order of the priest who died is fighting to clear his name.