Accuser in Philadelphia Priest Sex Abuse Case Is Grilled By Defense Attorneys
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By Tony Hanson, Oren Liebermann
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Defense attorneys in the latest sex abuse case in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia today were attacking the credibility of an alleged victim who has testified he was sexually assaulted by a priest and a lay teacher when he was ten years old, a fifth grader, in 1999 and 2000.
The witness is now 24-years-old and came forward a decade after the alleged abuse.
The defense suggested, through questioning, that the alleged victim’s story — that he was sexually assaulted by Father Charles Engelhardt in the church sacristy after an early morning mass — is incredible.
At one point, Engelhardt’s attorney, Michael McGovern, noted that the sacristy had several doors for entrance and exit, including one to the outside and another directly to the school. He asked the witness, “Wouldn’t that be a crazy place to rape somebody?”
The witness responded, “Not necessarily.”
McGovern, and the attorney for co-defendant Bernard Shero, both have cited inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s statements, but the witness has stood his ground.
The victim has also testified that he was later sexually assaulted by another priest in the same area of the church. That priest, Edward Avery, has since pleaded guilty.
Defense attorneys also went after the alleged victim’s history of drug use. Both McGovern and Burton Rose, who represents Shero, went into detail about the alleged victim’s use of drugs as early as age 11, when the accuser testified he started using marijuana.
The alleged victim says he started using heroin when he was 18, going through 23 different drug rehabilitation programs, as well as probation and time in jail.