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. ••