Philly priest sex abuse trial delayed

Sept. 4, 2012 at 2:32 PM

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- A Catholic clergy sex abuse trial in Philadelphia was put on hold after two deaths in a defense attorney's family.

Prosecutors said the trial, which was set to begin Tuesday, concerns the alleged abuse of a fifth-grader in 1998-99. Investigators said the boy, referred to as Billy Doe, was serially molested and raped by two priests and a teacher, who prosecutors say passed him from one abuser to the next, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The trial of former priest Charles Engelhardt, 65, and former parochial school teacher Bernard Shero, 49, in Philadelphia's Common Pleas Court includes a continuing gag order prohibiting lawyers or witnesses from talking to reporters, and documents pertaining to a pretrial hearing sealed by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina.

Sarmina will not preside over the trial, though. The delay conflicts with her pending court calendar. A new judge and trial date have yet to be determined.

Sarmina presided over the trial of Monsignor William J. Lynn, who was convicted June 22 on one count of child endangerment involving an assault on Billy Doe by the Rev. Edward V. Avery during the 1998-99 school year, court documents show.

Since the alleged incidents, Billy Doe, now 23, was ejected from two high schools, attempted suicide and developed an addiction to heroin and pills, the newspaper said, adding that he appeared at the previous trial and is expected to appear at this trial as well.

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