Of the Legal Staff
A priest who denied committing a sex crime when testifying after being called by prosecutors had a lot to lose by giving that testimony, adding credence to the defense theory that the alleged victim made up that he was sexually attacked by two priests and a Catholic school teacher in a year's span, a defense attorney argued in court today.
Edward Avery already pled guilty to sexually assaulting D.G. in early 2011. When he was called to testify in the trial of the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former schoolteacher Bernard Shero, Avery said that he was only able to plead guilty because he was asked by Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, after a recitation of facts by a prosecutor, if those were the facts to which Avery was pleading guilty, said defense attorney Burton Rose, who is representing Shero. Avery said he would not have been able to plead guilty if he had been asked directly, Rose said.
"Edward Avery has a lot to lose and nothing to gain [by coming into court and saying] that, 'I took the guilty plea to avoid dying in jail,'" Rose said. Prosecutors will be able to write to the state Parole Board indicating that Avery is not cooperating with the criminal justice system, and that would weigh heavily on Avery being able to get out of prison when he is first eligible for parole on his 2.5-five year sentence, Rose said.
The Legal does not name alleged or confirmed victims.
The defense attorney for Engelhardt and the prosecution are slated to give their closing arguments Friday morning.
Shero and Engelhardt had their cases severed from the trial of Monsignor William J. Lynn, the first Catholic Church official in the country to be charged with harming sexual-abuse victims whose abuse he was responsible for investigating.
The Legal will have further coverage on the case.
Amaris Elliott-Engel can be contacted at 215-557-2354 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisTLI.