Northeast Times

Prospective jurors being question in sex-abuse trial involving former St. Jerome's altar boy

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 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 jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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