Trial begins for pair accused in sex assault of altar boy
Jury selection began Monday for two men accused of the sexual abuse of an altar boy from St. Jerome’s parish in the late 1990s.
The Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former Catholic elementary school teacher Bernard Shero are on trial on charges of endangering children, indecent assault against someone younger than 13 years old and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
Engelhardt also is charged with conspiracy.
Jury selection, which was being held in Room 304 of the Criminal Justice Center, 13th and Filbert streets, may take a week, according to Tasha Jamerson, district attorney’s office spokeswoman. Testimony is not expected to begin before Jan. 14, she said.
Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler, who is presiding over the trial, has issued a gag order on all parties.
Engelhardt, an Oblate of St. Francis DeSales, and Shero, who had taught at St. Jerome’s school in the Northeast, had been slated for court on 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 from the others.
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.
The report described Billy’s alleged assault by Engelhardt, Avery and Shero in graphic detail.
Jurors stated that after Engelhardt allegedly caught “Billy” drinking sacramental wine after a Mass, he asked the boy personal questions, showed him pornographic magazines and then sexually assaulted him, calling the molestation a “session.”
Months later, the report said, Avery told the boy he had heard about his “session” with Engelhardt and that their “sessions” would soon begin. In March 2012, Avery pleaded guilty to molesting the boy.
Shero, a teacher in the school, offered Billy a ride home, but instead stopped at a park and sexually assaulted him. Then Shero told the boy to walk home, according to the grand jury report.
Lynn was found guilty in June of endangering children because he was knew of abuse allegations against Avery but kept him in active ministry.
The jury couldn’t reach a decision on Brennan. He will be retried in March. Lynn has appealed his conviction in Superior Court. He is incarcerated in Waymart state prison in northeastern Pennsylvania. ••