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.” ••