Jury selection began this morning in the trial for two more defendants in the Philadelphia archdiocesan sex-abuse scandal.
The Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former Catholic elementary school teacher Bernard Shero are charged with sexually assaulting the same St. Jerome parish altar boy in the late 1990s.
Jury selection began this morning in Room 304 of the Criminal Justice Center, 13th and Filbert streets.
Of more than 100 prospective jurors who filed into the courtroom, about 20 made it past the first round. The remainder were returned to the jury pool.
Jury selection may take as long as a week, according to Tasha Jamerson, district attorney’s office spokeswoman.
Testimony is not expected to begin until Jan. 14, she said.
Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler, who is presiding, has imposed a strict gag order on all the parties.
Engelhardt, an Oblate of St. Francis DeSales, and Shero, who had taught at St. Jerome’s school in the Northeast, had been slated to go on trial Sept. 4, but their trial was postponed.
Shero and Engelhardt were arrested in February 2011 along with Monsignor William Lynn, the Rev. James Brennan and former priest Edward Avery. All five had been scheduled to be tried together before Judge M. Teresa Sarmina in late March 2012, but the cases of Shero and Engelhardt were separated.
Philadelphia grand jurors, who had investigated allegations of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, issued a report in February 2011 in which they said Engelhardt abused a St. Jerome School fifth grader during the 1998-99 school year. The victim was identified by the pseudonym “Billy” in the report.
Grand jurors described Billy’s alleged experiences with Engelhardt, Avery and Shero in graphic detail.
Jurors stated that Engelhardt asked the boy personal questions, showed him pornographic magazines and then sexually assaulted him. According to the jurors, the priest labeled the molestation as a “session.”
Some months later, jurors wrote, Avery told the boy he had heard about his session with Engelhardt and that their “sessions” would soon begin.
“Next was the turn of Bernard Shero, a teacher in the school. Shero offered Billy a ride home, but instead stopped at a park, told Billy they were “going to have some fun,” and sexually assaulted him. Then Shero told the boy to walk home, according to the grand jury.
The archdiocese reported allegations against Avery and Engelhardt to authorities. It was during that investigation that authorities became aware of Shero and then Brennan, jurors reported. Lynn was charged with endangering children because he was knew of abuse allegations against Brennan and Avery but had kept them in active ministry.
Before the March 26, 2012, trial began for Avery, Lynn and Brennan, Avery pleaded guilty to molesting “Billy,” who later testified at the trial.
Lynn was found guilty of child endangerment June 22. He was found innocent of the same charge in regard to Brennan, and also acquitted of conspiracy.
Jurors couldn’t reach a decision on attempted rape and child endangerment charges against Brennan. He will be retried in March.
Lynn since has appealed his conviction in Superior Court. He has been incarcerated since June 22. He has been denied bail while he appeals.
To read the grand jury report online, go to http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/grandJury_clergyAbuse2.html and click on the report.
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org