Friday, January 4, 2013

Part Two of Landmark Clergy Sex Abuse Case To Begin Monday, Jan. 7

Continuing Coverage Now On

The sex abuse case against Father Charles Engelhardt and former Catholic lay teacher Bernard Shero is scheduled to  begin at 9 a.m. Monday with jury selection on the third floor of the Criminal Justice Center.

Shero and Engelhardt were originally charged along with three other defendants who went on trial last year -- Msgr. William J. Lynn, Father James J. Brennan and Father Edward V. Avery. Avery pleaded guilty on the eve of trial, March 22, 2011, to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a minor and was sentenced to 2 1/2 to 5 years in prison.

Lynn was convicted on June 22 of endangering the welfare of a child for failing to protect a 10-year-old altar boy from Avery; he was sentenced to three to six years in prison.

Shero and Engelhardt are both charged with abusing the same former 10-year-old altar boy who was the victim in the previous trial. The case against Shero and Engelhardt was postponed since last September.

The same jury that convicted Msgr. Lynn deadlocked on two charges against Father James J. Brennan, so that case is scheduled to be retried in March.

The judge in the Lynn case, M. Teresa Sarmina, has gone back to homicide court. "You won't have me to kick around any more," she told this reporter. Judge Ellen Ceisler will preside over the Shero-Engelhardt case.

Although Judge Sarmina won't be back, this reporter will be around to blog the Engelhardt-Shero trial starting Monday. Look for the stories, however, at a different place: Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog, also sponsored by The Beasley Firm.  Please feel free check out the site.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Prosecutor: Claim of False Confession "Utterly Frivolous"

The district attorney says a defense motion to reconsider bail in the case of Msgr. William J. Lynn, based upon allegations of a false confession by an alleged co-conspirator, former priest Edward V. Avery, is "utterly frivolous," and should be denied.

The Commonwealth's answer to a motion for reconsideration of bail was filed Sunday in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Eastern District, by Assistant District Attorney Hugh J. Burns Jr., chief of the district attorney's appeals unit. In his answer, Burns says the best evidence against the notion that Avery gave a false confession came from the former priest himself.

In an attachment, Avery's "written guilty plea colloquy" says that on March 22, the day he pleaded guilty, Avery signed his name on a document that says, "I admit I committed the crime[s]" of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to commit endangering the welfare of a child ... "Nobody promised me anything or threatened me or forced me to plead guilty. I, myself, have decided to plead guilty. I know what I say today is final."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Defense: Secret Polygraph Test Indicates Father Avery Never Assaulted 10-Year-Old Altar Boy, So Monsignor Lynn Was Convicted of A Crime That Never Happened

A motion to reconsider bail filed in Pennsylvania Superior Court contains a bombshell disclosure -- that former priest Edward V. Avery passed a polygraph test indicating he never touched the former 10-year-old altar boy he pleaded guilty to abusing.

Avery pleaded guilty on March 22 to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with the boy, and received a 2 1/2 to five year sentence, even though he told authorities he never even met the boy. The only reason Avery pleaded guilty to a crime he didn't commit, according to the defense motion, was that he was credibly accused by a prior victim, and that the prosecution offered him a good deal.

But the deal had one condition, that the defrocked priest plead guilty to a conspiracy involving Msgr. William J. Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for the clergy. Avery, who was supposed to go on trial with Lynn until he pleaded guilty, was facing a prison sentence of up to 20 years if convicted of molesting the boy, dubbed "Billy Doe" in civil litigation.

The motion to reconsider bail was filed Monday by Thomas A. Bergstrom, Allison Khaskelis and Alan J. Tauber, defense lawyers for Msgr. Lynn, the first Catholic administrator in the country to be convicted of child endangerment for transferring abusive priests from one parish to another. Lynn's lawyers say they were only recently told about the polygraph test by Avery's lawyer, so they cite the polygraph as further evidence that Lynn should be released on bail. Lynn previously was denied bail by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, as well as by the Superior Court.

A lawyer who represents Billy Doe in his civil claim against the archdiocese described the filing as "complete BS." A spokesman for the district attorney declined comment until a written response is filed in court.

Friday, August 24, 2012

After A Tearful Apology, A "Humbled" Former Archdiocese of Philadelphia CFO Is Hauled Off To Jail

Why did Anita Guzzardi, the former Chief Financial Officer of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, embezzle $906,000 from her employer?

In court today at a sentencing hearing, four different people offered four different explanations.

The prosecutor said Guzzardi didn't need the money, but she was greedy, and liked "nice things."

Guzzardi's addictions counselor said she was a pathological gambler who suffered from depression.

Guzzardi's older sister said she came from a dysfunctional family with a father who was a gambling addict and a mother who was a compulsive shopper and also abusive.

And finally, Guzzardi's lawyer said she felt betrayed by the archdiocese, after she read the 2005 grand jury report, and discovered that for decades the church she worked for had been covering up the sexual abuse of children.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bishops Cullen and Cistone To Be Named Defendants in Ongoing Civil Case Against Archdiocese of Philadelphia

They may have escaped criminal prosecution, but according to a memorandum of law filed Monday in Common Pleas Court, Bishops Edward P. Cullen and Joseph R. Cistone can expect to be named as defendants in an ongoing civil case against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia regarding the sexual abuse of a former 10-year-old altar boy.

Lawyers representing "Billy Doe" filed the memorandum of law in the civil case of Billy Doe V. the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Doe is the pseudonym for the former altar boy sexually abused by Father Edward V. Avery, who pleaded guilty on March 22 to involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a minor, and was sentenced to 2 1/2 to five years in prison. Avery's abuse of Billy Doe also resulted in the June 22 conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn for endangering the welfare of a child. Lynn is now serving a prison term of three to six years.

The former altar boy allegedly was passed from one abuser to another at St. Jerome's parish. On Sept. 4, two more alleged abusers of Billy Doe -- Charles Engelhardt, a former priest, and Bernard Shero, a former archdiocese school teacher -- are scheduled to go on trial before Judge M. Teresa Sarmina at the Criminal Justice Center.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Defense Lawyers Ask State Superior Court to Grant Bail to Monsignor Lynn

Msgr. Lynn's lawyers are asking the state Superior Court to let their client out on bail pending appeal.

In a brief filed this week, Lynn's lawyers say the monsignor was convicted on June 22 of one count of endangering the welfare of a child [EWOC] "based upon a novel and controversial theory of liability that held him criminally responsible for inadequately supervising a priest ... alleged to have sexually abused a child."

The state's 1972 child endangerment law was usually applied to parents, guardians, and those in direct contact with children, say defense lawyers Thomas A. Bergstrom, Allison Khaskelis, and Alan J. Tauber. Lynn is the first supervisor in the history of Pennsylvania to be charged under the old child endangerment law, even though he never had any direct contact with the child, the lawyers argue.