Shero attorney says child molestation case should be retried

Su­per­i­or Court last week denied a re­quest to send two child mo­lesta­tion cases back to Com­mon Pleas Court, and an at­tor­ney for one of the de­fend­ants also filed a brief last week in which he stated his cli­ent’s case should be re­tried be­cause of er­rors by the tri­al judge and be­cause of new evid­ence found in a civil suit filed by the pro­sec­u­tion’s primary wit­ness, a former North­east al­tar boy.

The Rev. Charles En­gel­hardt and former St. Jerome par­ish school teach­er Bern­ard Shero each were found guilty of sev­er­al mo­lesta­tion charges in early 2013. Jur­ors found them guilty of sexu­ally ab­us­ing the same St. Jerome al­tar boy in the late 1990s.

Both de­fend­ants were sen­tenced to long pris­on terms, and both ap­pealed their con­vic­tions.

In a brief filed April 2 for his cli­ent, Shero, at­tor­ney Bur­ton Rose said his cli­ent should get a new tri­al be­cause he said Judge El­len Ceisler made mis­takes dur­ing the tri­al. In a phone in­ter­view Monday, Rose also said “newly dis­covered” evid­ence found in a suit filed by the vic­tim, who is now in his 20s, should be con­sidered by the court. 

In an an­swer to Shero’s re­quest for re­mand to Com­mon Pleas Court, As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Hugh Burns wrote that the de­fend­ant’s re­quest was filed on “the basis of al­leged after-dis­covered evid­ence.” Such evid­ence is ma­ter­i­al dis­covered after a crim­in­al case.

This evid­ence, ac­cord­ing to Burns’ an­swer, “con­sists of state­ments, al­legedly made by the vic­tim in this case, that are al­legedly in­con­sist­ent with his testi­mony at tri­al.” 

Burns went on to state the evid­ence could have been ob­tained at any time be­fore and dur­ing Shero’s tri­al.

En­gel­hardt’s at­tor­ney, Mi­chael McGov­ern, has not yet filed his brief.

Last week’s ac­tions are just the latest in cases that began more than three years ago.

Shero, En­gel­hardt, former priest Ed­ward Avery, Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn and the Rev. James Bren­nan all were ar­res­ted in early 2011 after a Phil­adelphia grand jury re­leased a re­port on sexu­al ab­use by the city’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic clergy.

All of the cases but Bren­nan’s centered on al­leg­a­tions made by a man now in his 20s iden­ti­fied in court pa­pers as “Billy.” 

The man said En­gel­hardt, Avery and Shero mo­les­ted him while he was a pu­pil at St. Jerome par­ish school in the North­east in the late 1990s. Bren­nan was charged with mo­lest­ing a sub­urb­an boy, also in the 1990s.

Avery pleaded guilty to mo­lesta­tion charges shortly be­fore he was to go on tri­al with Lynn and Bren­nan. Lynn, who was in charge of in­vest­ig­at­ing ab­use al­leg­a­tions against dio­ces­an priests from the early 1990s to 2004, was found guilty in mid-2012 of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren be­cause he didn’t keep Avery away from them, thus en­abling Avery to mo­lest “Billy.” 

Jur­ors couldn’t couldn’t reach a ver­dict on Bren­nan, and he is yet to be re­tried. 

In early 2013, En­gel­hardt and Shero were tried to­geth­er. Jur­ors found En­gel­hardt and Shero guilty of mo­lest­ing Billy. 

Last year, Su­per­i­or Court threw out Lynn’s con­vic­tion, stat­ing the state’s child en­dan­ger­ment stat­utes didn’t ap­ply to him be­cause he had no dir­ect su­per­vi­sion of chil­dren. Lynn had said he didn’t even know “Billy.” The monsignor, who lost 80 pounds dur­ing his 18 months in pris­on, lives in St. Wil­li­am rect­ory as he awaits res­ults of the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s ap­peal of the Su­per­i­or Court de­cision. 

En­gel­hardt and Shero re­main in pris­on while their ap­peals are be­ing ar­gued. ••

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