Northeast Times

Judge won’t cut time in child molestation case

A Phil­adelphia judge has re­fused to re­duce lengthy pris­on terms giv­en to a priest and former school teach­er who were con­victed of mo­lest­ing a North­east al­tar boy. 

Law­yers for the Rev. Charles En­gel­hardt and former St. Jerome par­ish school teach­er Bern­ard Shero filed sen­tence-modi­fic­a­tion mo­tions with Com­mon Pleas Court El­len Ceisler on June 20.

In his mo­tion for En­gel­hardt, his at­tor­ney, Mi­chael McGov­ern, called his cli­ent’s six-to-12-year sen­tence “ex­cess­ive and un­reas­on­able.”

Shero, 50, got eight to 16 years for his con­vic­tions for rape of a child and in­vol­un­tary de­vi­ate sexu­al in­ter­course with a child. 

Shero also re­ceived a con­sec­ut­ive sen­tence of 3½ to 7 years for his en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren con­vic­tion as well as five years of re­port­ing pro­ba­tion on oth­er charges. En­gel­hardt also was sen­tenced to five years of re­port­ing pro­ba­tion. 

Ceisler sen­tenced both men on June 12. In a June 25 email to the North­east Times, McGov­ern said Ceisler af­firmed her sen­tence without a hear­ing. Bur­ton Rose, Shero’s law­yer, also told the North­east Times that the sen­tence-modi­fic­a­tion mo­tion he filed with the judge was denied without a hear­ing.

Both law­yers said they soon will ap­peal their cli­ents’ con­vic­tions.

McGov­ern said En­gel­hardt, who had been pas­tor of Ma­ter Dol­orosa and a teach­er at North Cath­ol­ic and Fath­er Judge, had no crim­in­al re­cord be­fore his Feb­ru­ary 2011 ar­rest on charges of in­vol­un­tary de­vi­ate sexu­al in­ter­course and re­lated of­fenses. 

Shero, too, had no crim­in­al re­cord pri­or to his Feb­ru­ary 2011 ar­rest, Rose had told the court.

Shero and En­gel­hardt’s crimes oc­curred at St. Jerome par­ish in Holme Circle in the late 1990s.

Pro­sec­utors al­leged that En­gel­hardt mo­les­ted the 10-year-old al­tar boy in­side the church.

Pro­sec­utors charged Shero, a teach­er at the par­ish school, with mo­lest­ing the same boy dur­ing the fol­low­ing school year after of­fer­ing the boy a ride home.

McGov­ern said these sen­tences were far harsh­er than state guidelines for a de­fend­ant with no crim­in­al his­tory. 

They were, he wrote, “out­side the en­tire sen­ten­cing guideline range.”

McGov­ern said his is­sues with Ceisler’s sen­tence, er­rors dur­ing the grand jury pro­ceed­ings, pre­tri­al hear­ings and the tri­al will be ap­pealed to the Pennsylvania Su­per­i­or Court.

“I be­lieve that there are nu­mer­ous mer­it­ori­ous grounds for re­versal on ap­peal, in­clud­ing gross pro­sec­utori­al mis­con­duct,” McGov­ern wrote in the email to the North­east Times, “and [I] an­ti­cip­ate a suc­cess­ful ap­peal of this tra­gic mis­car­riage of justice.” ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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