Philly Altar Boy Sex Scandal Gets Uglier

Philadelphia altar boy Daniel Gallagher accused three men of sexually assaulting him. Anis Mili/Reuters

I don't remember.

I really don't remember.

I honestly don't remember.

That's what former Philadelphia altar boy Daniel Gallagher had to say when questioned about the numerous and contradictory allegations of sex abuse he's made over the years to doctors, drug counselors and social workers. During a confidential deposition over two full days in May and June 2014, Gallagher claimed he couldn't remember more than 130 times.

The skinny, tattooed, 27-year-old former drug addict and admitted dealer was the Philadelphia district attorney's star witness at two criminal trials in 2012 and 2013. Gallagher's testimony about allegedly being repeatedly raped when he was an altar boy sent three priests and a Catholic schoolteacher to jail.

Since then, however, Gallagher's credibility is unraveling under the scrutiny of expert witnesses, and the criminal convictions resulting from his testimony have been the subject of two successful legal appeals, with more challenges on the way.

[RELATED: Catholic Guilt? The Lying, Scheming Altar Boy Behind a Lurid Rape Case]

In his deposition transcript obtained by Newsweek, Gallagher stated he couldn't remember telling his doctors and drug counselors he'd been: sexually abused by a friend at age 6; sexually abused by a neighbor at 6; sexually abused by a teacher at age 7; sexually molested at 6 (or 8) by an unknown assailant; sexually molested at 8 (or 9) by a friend; and sexually abused at 9 by a 14-year-old boy.

"They could have written it down wrong," he said. "I don't know . . . I don't remember."

He did admit, however, that none of those allegations of sexual abuse were true.

He also didn't remember telling two archdiocese social workers wild stories about being anally raped by a priest for five hours in the church sacristy; being tied up naked with altar boy sashes by another priest; and being forced to suck blood off of the other priest's penis.

Gallagher was pressed about whether he remembered telling a drug counselor that his hands were tied during one alleged sexual assault.

"I really don't remember what I told him," he said.

"Were your hands ever tied up during any of the sexual assaults?"

"No," he said.

But he stuck to his improbable story that he was raped by two priests and a schoolteacher. He also admitted to being arrested a half dozen times, for drugs and retail theft.

"You were a drug dealer?"


"And by your own admission, you stole things, you were a thief?"


He also remembered describing himself as a "born salesman."

"My family always told me I'm a born salesman," Gallagher proudly declared.

Gallagher's credibility was questioned by Dr. Stephen Mechanick, a forensic psychiatrist during a court-ordered examination of the former altar boy for his civil suit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Mechanick described Gallagher as "apparently immature and self-indulgent," "paranoid," "manipulative" and "delusional."

Mechanick was hired by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, who were defending the reputation of the late Father Charles Engelhardt, a 67-year-old oblate who died in prison in 2014 after being convicted of raping Gallagher.

Now, another expert witness who has pored over those same medical records has stated he doesn't believe Gallagher either. In a confidential 11-page report from May 19, 2015, Dr. James I. Hudson, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, noted that in his medical records, Gallagher gave "strikingly inconsistent and discrepant accounts of the alleged incidents of sexual abuse."

Hudson, director of the biological psychiatry laboratory at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA, was hired by the Philadelphia archdiocese to examine Gallagher as part of the church's defense in the civil case. In his report, Hudson concluded that Gallagher had a history of having a bipolar II disorder, an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], as well as chemical dependencies on marijuana, narcotics, and sedatives.

None of these conditions, however, were caused by sexual abuse, Hudson wrote. Gallagher had ADHD before he claimed to be sexually abused. Also, the "largest and most sophisticated controlled prospective study" on 1,000 sex abuse victims for more than 20 years found no significant association between sexual abuse and mood disorders or substance abuse, Hudson wrote.

That same study concluded that children with a history of sex abuse were "no more likely to develop alcohol or drug problems than a comparison group of otherwise similar children with no reported history of abuse," Hudson wrote. Gallagher "likely has a genetic predisposition" to develop mood disorders or substance abuse problems, Hudson wrote. "In short, neither Mr. Gallagher's substance-use disorders, nor his mood disorder, nor his degree of emotionality upon telling his narrative, provides any scientifically reliable evidence for the validity of his abuse allegations."

In his report, Hudson refuted arguments made by a psychiatrist hired by Gallagher's lawyers who blamed the former altar boy's memory lapses on traumatic sexual abuse: "There is no legitimate scientific evidence that psychological trauma can cause the massive amount of inconsistencies and contradictions that is exhibited by Mr. Gallagher's reports of the allegations of sexual abuse."

Hudson also criticized Dr. Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dey, a psychiatrist hired by Gallagher's lawyers, for operating at a "serious disadvantage" because she did not read Gallagher's medical records before examining him.

Hudson quoted Frawley-O'Dea as having done a Google search on Gallagher, also known as "Billy Doe," and writing that news articles questioning his credibility were "a form of re-traumatization" of an "already damaged young man." Hudson disagreed: "One should not be forbidden from suggesting that Mr. Gallagher, who has given numerous contradictory accounts of the alleged events, may not be entirely truthful," he wrote.

In an interview, Frawley-O'Dea said she examined Gallagher over two full days, and gave him a full battery of tests. "Indeed, this young man has been abused," she insisted, adding that he still suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. She dismissed Hudson as a "professional witness who always testifies for the defense."

Despite Hudson's doubts about Gallagher's credibility, the Philadelphia archdiocese settled the civil case last August by paying Gallagher $5 million. Neither the archdiocese nor its lawyers will talk about the settlement.

Meanwhile, one of the men Gallagher sent to jail, Msgr. William J. Lynn, remains in prison, even though a Pennsylvania appeals court last December overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial. A panel of three state Superior Court judges ruled that the trial judge, M. Teresa Sarmina, abused her discretion when she admitted into evidence against Lynn 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse dating back to 1948, three years before the 64-year-old monsignor was born. Addressing those supplemental cases took up at least 25 days of his 32-day trial in 2012.

Lynn was serving a three-to six-year sentence after being convicted on one count of endangering the welfare of a child—Billy Doe—by not protecting the altar boy from Edward Avery, a former priest with a history of sex abuse whom Gallagher claimed had raped him. After the state Superior Court overturned Lynn's conviction, the Philadelphia district attorney's office offered a plea bargain that would have sprung Lynn from jail for time served. "He was offered a plea deal but he rejected it," said Thomas A. Bergstrom, Lynn's lawyer. "He wasn't going to plead guilty to something he didn't do."

Lynn plans to stay in jail while the Philadelphia district attorney decides whether to appeal the overturning of his conviction, Bergstrom said. District Attorney R. Seth Williams stated at a press conference last December that he would do whatever it takes to keep Lynn in jail, "where he belongs," including an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which must be filed this week.

Another defendant sent to jail by Gallagher's testimony, Bernard Shero, a former Catholic schoolteacher, hired a new lawyer last week to research another appeal for a new trial. George Bochetto is investigating whether Shero, serving 8 to 16 years for raping Gallagher, was represented by ineffective counsel. Bochetto also is looking into whether Shero merits a new trial based on formerly confidential "Brady material" disclosed in the Newsweek cover story. He was referring to a landmark 1963 case, Brady v. Maryland, where the U.S. Supreme Court held that if the prosecution withholds evidence beneficial to a defendant, it violates due process of law.

In the Newsweek story, Joseph Walsh, a retired detective who led the Philadelphia district attorney's investigation into Gallagher's claims of abuse, testified in a confidential civil deposition that he questioned Gallagher about nine significant factual discrepancies, and that Gallagher's response was to either say nothing, claim he was high on drugs, or tell a different story.

Three criminal defense lawyers who represented Msgr. Lynn and the archdiocese say that Walsh's questioning of Gallagher, and Gallagher's responses, or lack thereof, was never disclosed by the prosecution. Alan J. Tauber, one of Lynn's defense lawyers, said, "A detective re-interviewing a complainant who gives a different account of what happened, or refuses to answer, would certainly constitute Brady material.This case rose and fell on the credibility of the complainant."

The claim of ineffective counsel in Shero's defense would involve the botched serving of a subpoena during the criminal trial on James Gallagher Jr., Daniel Gallagher's older brother. At the 2013 trial where Father Engelhardt and Shero were convicted, jurors sent a note to the trial judge asking why Daniel Gallagher's brother did not appear as a witness, since a defense lawyer had said in court that the brother would testify on behalf of the defendants.

Defense lawyers claimed they served James Gallagher Jr. with a subpoena, but prosecutors told the judge that the subpoena was not properly served.

In his confidential civil deposition on Oct. 28, 2014 obtained by Newsweek , James Gallagher Jr. contradicted his younger brother on several key points.

James Gallagher Jr., 30, a Pittsburgh lawyer, was a 13-year-old altar boy and sexton in eighth grade at St. Jerome's parish in Northeast Philadelphia, at the same time Daniel Gallagher was a 10-year-old altar boy in fifth grade, and claimed he was raped by two priests.

It was Daniel Gallagher's testimony that he was alone in the sacristy putting away the sacramental wine when he was first accosted by Father Engelhardt, who later allegedly raped the altar boy in the sacristy when he was alone after a subsequent Mass.

At his deposition, however, James Gallagher Jr., testified that altar boys typically weren't left alone with priests when they served Mass. Instead, the older brother stated, altar boys were typically accompanied by a sexton, at least one other altar boy, an older man who worked as a custodian, as well as the church pastor, the late Father Joseph B. Graham, who died in 2010.

James Gallagher Jr. also testified that it was the sexton who was responsible for bringing out the sacramental wine before Mass, and putting away the wine after Mass; not the altar boy, as Daniel Gallagher had claimed.

James Gallagher Jr. stated that he noticed a personality change in his younger brother much later than grade school, when he claimed to have been raped. "It seemed right about the time he went into high school," the older brother testified.

His mother gave the same answer when she was asked when she noticed a personality change in her son. "At age 14, as he entered high school, freshman year at high school, he wasn't the same child," Sheila Gallagher told a grand jury in 2010. But in a 2011 grand jury report, the district attorney's office rewrote her testimony to say, "[Gallagher's] mother also told us of a dramatic change in her son's personality that coincided with the abuse."

Daniel Gallagher had claimed he underwent a personality change when he was raped at 10 and 11 years old. At his deposition, James Gallagher Jr. was asked what his younger brother had told him about being sexually abused.

"Danny has actually never told me anything specific with what had happened," James Gallagher Jr., said.

At his civil deposition, the older brother shed some light on what happened to that subpoena from the defense. "I was never told about it," he said. He testified that at least two months after the trial ended, in March or April of 2013, he was going through a pile of mail "and saw that there was a subpoena for me, but it was a little too late at that point."