Prosecutor Tries Vainly to Plug All the Holes in His Case

By Ralph Cipriano
Big Trial
January 25, 2013

It was a telling sign in the prosecutor's closing statement that he spent as much time attacking a social worker for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as he did the two defendants in the case.

But Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti had to address glaring discrepancies between what "Billy Doe," the alleged victim in this sex abuse case, told the social worker, Louise Hagner, back in 2009, and what he subsequently told law enforcement authorities.

Cipolletti also had to call into question the testimony of former priest Edward V. Avery, who showed up in court in a prison uniform last week to tell the jury that he never touched Billy Doe.

Avery may have pleaded guilty last year to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with the former 10-year-old altar boy, the former priest testified, but he only did it because he was facing 20 years in prison, and the prosecution offered him a sweetheart deal -- 2 /12 to five years in jail. Incredibly, nobody ever asked the 70-year-old defrocked priest if he actually was guilty of committing the crime he pleaded guilty to until last week.

The assistant district attorney also had to explain away another factual discrepancy between what Billy Doe told this jury, and what he told a detective in the district attorney's office.

In short, Mark Cipolletti has his work cut out for him today as he used a rambling 82 minutes to try and plug all the holes in a case that a jury is now deliberating. And although he went through the academic exercise of reading from his notes to make sure he had addressed all the leaks, his speech was flat and strangely passionless. That prompted partisan observers on both sides of the case to question whether the prosecutor's heart was fully in it.


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