20 Mar 2011

Four Philadelphia priests and teacher charged for child rape and conspiracy make first court appearance

CNN - March 14, 2011

Philadelphia priests, teacher in court in sex abuse cases

By Sarah Hoye, CNN

Philadelphia (CNN) -- Four priests and a parochial school teacher appeared before a Philadelphia judge Monday for the first time since their February arrests on charges of sexual abuse and child endangerment.

The priests were charged with raping and assaulting boys in their care, and a former official with the Philadelphia Archdiocese was accused of allowing the abusive priests to have access to children, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes went head to head with defense attorneys before a full courtroom over the validity of the latest charges of conspiracy, the venue and defense fees.

Hughes was also asked to recuse herself because she oversaw the grand jury, a motion she denied.

"The reason I don't recuse is because I've read every single word," Hughes told the attorneys.

All the while, the priests and teacher sat silently, often looking at the ground or at their individual attorneys -- with the exception of James Brennan, a priest accused of assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996.

James Brennan, 47

Brennan was asked to stand and explain himself after revealing that he retained private defense attorney Charles Peruto using a loan from his brother and a monthly stipend from the archdiocese. The announcement came after the judge had appointed an attorney for him.

Edward Avery, 68

Hughes' face contorted as she fired at Brennan and explained how she met with him several times, at which time he was "in tears" and said he could not afford an attorney.

"You lied to me," Hughes scolded, adding that she was ordering Brennan to pay the court-appointed attorney's legal fees. "So now, all of sudden, you have resources?"

Charles Engelhardt, 64

Brennan's lawyers are challenging the charges because they said a Philadelphia grand jury had no jurisdiction to charge Brennan for crimes that it alleges occurred in Chester and Bucks counties.

Prosecutors filed a new charge against Brennan on Friday, alleging that he committed assault as part of a conspiracy involving the Philadelphia-based leaders of the diocese.

Bernard Shero, 48

"Evidence shows there was an agreement," Evangelia Manos, a Philadelphia assistant district attorney, said of the contested conspiracy charge.

The defendants are scheduled to appear in court again March 25, at which time Hughes will rule on the defense's request for a preliminary hearing on the charges, a decision that could require prosecutors to prove that the case is worthy of a trial and disclose evidence.

All of the accused are out on bail.

Edward Avery, 68, and Charles Engelhardt, 64, were charged with assaulting a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome Parish from 1998 to 1999. Avery was defrocked in 2006 based on a complaint from a former altar boy who said Avery abused him in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the grand jury report.

Bernard Shero, 48, a teacher in the school, is charged with allegedly assaulting the same boy there in 2000, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Monsignor William Lynn, who served as the secretary for clergy under then-Philadelphia Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the alleged assaults, according to the District Attorney's Office.

From 1992 until 2004, Lynn was responsible for investigating reports that priests had sexually abused children, the district attorney's office said. The grand jury found that Lynn, 60, endangered children, including the victims in these most recent cases, by knowingly allowing dangerous priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to children, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Lynn will plead not guilty, said one of his defense attorneys, Thomas Bergstrom.

"Not guilty because he is," Bergstrom said.

This year's grand jury report is the second priest sexual abuse grand jury report in Philadelphia and the first time that a Catholic church leader has been charged criminally in an alleged coverup.

Avery, Engelhardt and Shero were charged with rape, indecent sexual assault and other criminal counts after the results of the grand jury investigation of clergy sexual abuse, Williams said.

The names of the alleged victims, who are now in their 20s, have not been released.

The grand jury believed that more than 30 priests have remained in ministry in Pennsylvania despite solid, credible allegations of abuse, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, had initially challenged that claim. However, on March 8, the archdiocese announced that it was placing 21 priests on administration leave at the recommendation of former child abuse prosecutor Gina Maisto Smith, retained by the archdiocese.

In addition to the 21, three other priests were placed on administrative leave shortly after the report was released in February.

"I want to be clear: These administrative leaves are interim measures. They are not in any way final determinations or judgments," Rigali said in a statement.

If convicted, Avery, Engelhardt, Shero and Brennan could face a maximum of 67 years in prison. Lynn is facing a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

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New York Times  -  March 14, 2011

Priests and Judge in Abuse Case Spar Over Legal Fees


PHILADELPHIA — Four Roman Catholic priests and a Catholic school teacher appeared in court here Monday in the first of what will most likely be several legal skirmishes over whether they will face trial on charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of minors.

Most of them sat silently behind their lawyers at the crowded defense table in the packed courtroom, where observers included several other priests and a phalanx of news reporters.

But the Rev. James Brennan, who is accused of raping a boy in the 1990s, drew the ire of the judge when he and his lawyer said that they had expected the Philadelphia Archdiocese to pay his legal fees if he were acquitted.

The court session was intended to determine whether the defendants should have a preliminary hearing, in which the evidence against them would probably be laid out. That decision was postponed until March 25, but not before the judge, Renee Cardwell Hughes, engaged in several sharp exchanges with Father Brennan and his lawyer over the pay arrangement.

Judge Hughes said that if the archdiocese were paying only if he were acquitted, he might not act in his own best interest.

She said that such an arrangement would give him a disincentive to negotiate with the prosecutors, because his legal bills would not be paid “if you speak against the archdiocese.”

In a dramatic moment, the judge ordered Father Brennan to rise and, in frustrated and furious tones, declared that he did not understand what he had done and was not giving her straight answers.

Father Brennan, a slight man wearing a pullover sweater, acknowledged that he was confused, and one of his lawyers, A. Charles Peruto Jr., jumped up frequently to challenge Judge Hughes, despite her order that he remain seated.

“He’s trembling back here,” Mr. Peruto declared of Father Brennan at one point.

The emotion in the courtroom seemed to echo the emotion in this city over the abuse scandal, which burst into public view last month with a scathing grand jury report that led to the suspension last week of 21 priests. The grand jury has accused the archdiocese of protecting itself rather than the victims.

The issue of the payments for Father Brennan became muddled after the court session, when a spokeswoman for the archdiocese said it was not paying Father Brennan’s legal bills and had made no such arrangement.

“Absolutely not,” the spokeswoman, Donna Farrell, wrote in an e-mail.

“I am told,” Ms. Farrell continued, “that the defense for Father Brennan made that request, but there has been no meeting, no discussion, and the archdiocese does not plan to pay for his defense.”

The archdiocese is, however, paying for all of the legal bills for another defendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, the highest church official in the country to face charges of endangering the welfare of children. The fees will be paid regardless of the outcome of Monsignor Lynn’s case, according to his lawyers and the archdiocese.

Jeffrey Lindy, one of Monsignor Lynn’s lawyers, said, “It would be highly unusual for the archdiocese not to pay,” noting that the monsignor was not charged with abusing minors but with covering up such abuse.

Stephen Gillers, a professor of law at New York University and an expert in legal ethics, said the arrangement was not uncommon, and could even be compared with cases in which corporations guarantee legal fees for employees who might be required to repay the company under some conditions. But, Profesor Gillers noted, arrangements to pay legal fees only if acquitted could result in divided loyalties, for both lawyer and client.

Later in the hearing, Father Brennan said he had not paid his lawyers but then he said he had, with money from his bank account and from his brother. Judge Hughes reacted incredulously. She reminded him that she had spent taxpayer money for his court-appointed lawyer during the grand jury investigation because he had told her that he could not afford a lawyer.

“You lied to me,” she scolded. “You jerked me around while you played this game and came to me in tears.”

Mr. Peruto, his lawyer, said Father Brennan’s brother had come up with the money only after the grand jury inquiry and added that Father Brennan had misspoken in court because he was nervous.

Father Brennan said in a brief interview after the appearance that he thought the judge’s questioning was “harsh,” and Mr. Peruto said she had shown bias toward the prosecution.

Mr. Peruto also said Father Brennan’s legal defense, if his case ever went to trial, could cost at least $50,000.

John Schwartz contributed reporting from New York.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 14, 2011

An earlier version of this story incorrectly described a priest, the Rev. James Brennan, as defrocked.

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