By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)– The second part of the landmark clergy abuse case was scheduled to begin today with the trial of two men, a priest and a lay teacher, charged with sexually assaulting the same young boy when he was in 5th and 6th grade. But, the trial has been delayed indefinitely, because one of the defense attorneys suffered a death in the family and will be unavailable for several days.
The case will be assigned to a new judge and may be delayed by weeks or even months.
Father Charles Engelhardt, 65, is charged with sexually assaulting the then-fifth-grade student in the church sacristy at St. Jerome’s in the Northeast.
District Attorney Seth Williams detailed the allegations when the charges were filed early last year.
“He was in the sacristy and as many young men — including myself was a young guy — as an altar boy, he has wine and the priest not looking and he took a couple of sips, priest comes in and instead of saying ‘stop that, don’t do that,’ the priest told him to drink more. And then locked the doors to the sacristy, showed him pornography and then began his abuse.”
Former lay teacher, Bernard Shero, 49, allegedly attacked the boy in a car while giving him a ride home. 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 and he’s a completely innocent man.”
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 sexual assault of another boy. And Monsignor William Lynn was convicted of endangering children and is now serving a prison sentence for failing to remove a known predator, Avery, from ministry.