Shero's lawyer says abuse 'never happened'

  The case against a former St. Jerome school teach­er rests on the be­lievab­il­ity of a former North­east man who test­i­fied Bern­ard Shero mo­les­ted him in the late 1990s, a de­fense law­yer told jur­ors this morn­ing.

And that wit­ness shouldn’t be be­lieved, Shero’s at­tor­ney, Bur­ton Rose, told jur­ors in his clos­ing state­ment.

“It nev­er happened,” he said.

Rose said his cli­ent’s ac­cuser is su­ing Shero and us­ing is us­ing his al­leg­a­tions to ex­plain away 10 years of drug ab­use and trouble with the law. Be­sides that, Rose said, the al­leged vic­tim has giv­en more than two ver­sions of his ac­count of how he was mo­les­ted by Shero in the spring of 2000 when he was 11 as well as dif­fer­ent ver­sions of al­leged as­saults by the Rev. Charles En­gel­hardt and former priest Ed­ward Avery when he was 10.

“This is an op­por­tun­ity play,” Rose said, by a young man who’s “been around and knows how to game the sys­tem.”

His cli­ent, who has eye prob­lems and is so­cially awk­ward, Rose said, “is the per­fect tar­get” for mo­lesta­tion al­leg­a­tions.

Shero this morn­ing listened in­tently to his law­yer’s clos­ing ar­gu­ments, dab­bing at his eyes with his handker­chief as Rose read aloud the note the ex-teach­er had writ­ten to his par­ents when he at­temp­ted sui­cide be­fore his Feb­ru­ary 2011 ar­rest.

Clos­ing state­ments will be giv­en on Fri­day by En­gel­hardt’s at­tor­ney, Mi­chael McGov­ern, and by the pro­sec­u­tion. Avery, who pleaded guilty last year to in­vol­un­tary de­vi­ate sexu­al in­ter­course with a child and en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren, denied on the stand last week that he had ever touched the boy who ac­cused Shero and En­gel­hardt.

The wit­ness against the men had said En­gel­hardt, an Ob­late of St. Fran­cis De­Sales, had mo­les­ted him after a Mass at St. Jerome’s par­ish in the North­east dur­ing the 1998-99 school year. The wit­ness said En­gel­hardt had re­ferred his en­coun­ters with the boy as “ses­sions.”

Later that school year, the wit­ness said, Avery had sexu­ally ab­used him on two oc­ca­sions after telling the boy he had heard about his “ses­sions” with En­gel­hardt. In spring of the next year, the wit­ness said, Shero offered him a ride home, but in­stead took him to a Pennypack Park park­ing lot and sexu­ally as­saul­ted him.

“Why didn’t he run?” Rose asked jur­ors. Ac­cord­ing to his testi­mony, Rose said, the boy had been as­saul­ted at least twice be­fore.

“Be­cause it nev­er happened,” Rose said. “There is no phys­ic­al evid­ence that it ever happened.”

Rose re­minded jur­ors that Shero had pleaded not guilty to the charges. Not guilty is what the jury should de­cide, he said. 

En­gel­hardt and Shero chose not to testi­fy in their own de­fense. Over the last day or so, de­fense at­tor­neys re­lied on a series of char­ac­ter wit­nesses, many of whom were re­l­at­ives. After the de­fense res­ted this morn­ing, the pro­sec­u­tion called one more wit­ness, a re­but­tal char­ac­ter wit­ness, and then both sides res­ted.

While on the wit­ness stand Jan. 15 and 16, the al­leged vic­tim, who cur­rently lives in Flor­ida, said a life­time of drug ab­use began after the al­leged mo­lesta­tions, and that the first time he used drugs was when his older broth­er, now an at­tor­ney, took him to a party at which he smoked marijuana. The man, now 24, said he was 11 at the time.

The al­leged vic­tim’s moth­er, who is a nurse, and fath­er, who is a Phil­adelphia po­lice ser­geant, test­i­fied for the pro­sec­u­tion dur­ing the first week of the tri­al, which is now in its second week.

Com­mon Pleas Court Judge El­len Ceisler told jur­ors this morn­ing that she will give them in­struc­tions on Fri­day. ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or

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