Priestly Sex Abuse Case Creeps Forward

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – The defendants in a sex-abuse scandal involving the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were arraigned Friday on charges of sexually abusing boys or giving sexual predators access to minors.

     Four of the defendants appeared in front of a trial commissioner. A fifth defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, signed a waiver of appearance, attorney Richard DeSipio said.
     Brennan was accused in a February grand jury report of raping a 14-year-old boy in 1996 while working as a parochial vicar in a Philadelphia suburb. That report also describes allegations made by a second man who says he was abused by two different priests, Charles Engelhardt and Edward Avery, and a parochial school teacher, Bernard Shero, when he was a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999. Avery was later defrocked from the priesthood.
     A fifth defendant, Monsignor William Lynn, put the boys in harm’s way even though he had allegedly received complaints about other cases of abuse, the grand jury found.
     At a March 25 hearing, Court of Common Pleas Judge Rene Cardwell Hughes ordered the government to turn over the first batch of discovery materials by April 15.
     But Shero’s attorney, Burton Rose, told the trial commissioner on Friday that he had “received a pile of discovery yesterday that is completely inadequate.”
     Conspicuously absent were transcripts of the “interviews between the commonwealth and the complaining witness,” Rose said.
     An attorney for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office said that defense attorneys “have to pay for the transcripts before they can get them.”
     But Rose said, “If there are statements that you have from the complaining witness, I want them. … We were supposed to get them today, April 15, 2011, and I don’t have them.”
     The trial commissioner said, “If there are any discovery issues, they have to be addressed June 6,” the date of the next pre-trial hearing.
     At the March 25 hearing, Judge Hughes addressed the prosecution’s claim that DeSipio might be barred from litigating the case because he may have witnessed something years ago as a pupil at a seminary where one of the defendants was dean of students.
     Hughes issued a gag order at that hearing, and ordered prosecutors to investigate the claim and report back in 30 days.
     The claim was not addressed during Friday’s proceedings, but a source knowledgeable about the case told Courthouse News that it seems to have become a non-issue.
     The defendants are expected to plead not guilty.

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