Billy Doe’s Junkie Hustle

Big Trial

By Ralph Cipriano

Michael E. Wallace, criminal defense lawyer, has a cardinal rule: don’t ever believe anything your client tells you.

Wallace’s client in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case was Edward V. Avery, a defrocked priest with a history of sexually abusing young boys. So when Avery told Wallace he didn’t touch “Billy Doe” — the former altar boy who accused Avery of raping him — Wallace was skeptical.

“Father, you’re saying Mass for me this Sunday,” Wallace told the former priest. “And next Sunday. And the Sunday after that.”

Wallace had Avery stop by his law office on the 12th floor of 2 Logan Square. Every Sunday morning, the lawyer would serve the former priest a cup of tea, and then grill him about the details of the crime. “After 65 Sundays of cross-examination, I believed him,” Wallace said. But that didn’t mean Wallace was done checking out his client’s story.

Wallace’s next move was to send the “smiling padre” out “to be boxed,” meaning a polygraph test. The man who administered the test was William L. Fleisher, a former FBI agent who did polygraphs for District Attorney Seth Williams and the U.S. Attorney’s office. How’d Avery do? “He passed it with flying colors,” Wallace said.

That brought Wallace to a firm conclusion about Billy Doe’s allegations — “It all added up to a big lie,” Wallace said.

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