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Alleged Clergy Sex Abuse Trial Scheduled To Begin

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(credit: Philadelphia Police Department)

(credit: Philadelphia Police Department)

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By Tony Hanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A priest and a former lay teacher at St. Jerome’s Parish in Northeast Philadelphia are scheduled to go to trial today on sexual assault charges. The two men are charged with sexually assaulting the same young boy when he was in 5th and 6th grade in 1999.

Sixty-six-year-old Father Charles Engelhardt is charged with sexually assaulting the boy in the church sacristy after he had assisted at mass. According to the grand jury presentment, Father Engelhardt caught the boy drinking sacramental wine after mass, allegedly poured him more wine and showed him pornographic magazines, then assaulted him a week later after another mass.

Former lay teacher, 49-year-old Bernard Shero, allegedly attacked the boy in a car while giving him a ride home.

The defense has adamantly denied the allegations and both men have pleaded not guilty.

There’s a gag order, so the attorneys cannot comment, but after the charges were filed, defense attorney Michael McGovern responded.

“Father Engelhardt has been aware of these charges for several years now, and when given the opportunity to appear before the grand jury, he waived his Fifth Amendment privilege not to testify and he told the truth that frankly, this never happened,” McGivern said.

Five men were initially charged following the grand jury investigation.

Defrocked priest Edward Avery pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the same boy allegedly assaulted by Father Engelhardt and Shero.

A fourth defendant, Father James Brennan, is awaiting re-trial after a hung jury involving the alleged assault of another boy.

Monsignor William Lynn was convicted of endangering children and is now serving a prison sentence for failing to remove Avery, a known predator, from ministry.

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