Trial delayed for priest, teacher accused of sexual assault

The sexual assault trial of a former Roman Catholic priest and parochial school teacher has been postponed indefinitely due to a death in the family of one of the defense attorneys.

Former priest Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero are charged with sexually assaulting a young boy at St. Jerome’s Parish in the Northeast at separate times between 1998 and 2000. Jury selection was scheduled to begin today, but the case was delayed following news of a death in attorney Michael McGovern’s family.

The case will also have to be reassigned to a new judge because Common Pleas Court Teresa Sarmina has a scheduling conflict. Rescheduling could delay the case for weeks or even months.

Engelhardt and Shero were charged as a result of a 2011 grand jury which investigated priest sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Also charged in the same presentment with sexual assault were Rev. Edward Avery and Rev. James Brennan, along with Monsignor William Lynn who was accused of conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child.

Avery pleaded guilty earlier this year and was sentenced to 2 1/2 to 5 years in prison. Lynn was convicted in June of child endangerment and sentenced to three to six years. Brennan, who was a co-defendant in the Lynn trial, will be retried in March after a jury was hung on charges against him.

According to the grand jury report, Engelhardt sexually assaulted the boy in the sacristy of St. Jerome’s after mass and bragged about it to Avery, who then assaulted the boy. They then told Shero, who allegedly drove the boy to a park, raped and “forced him out of the car and told him to walk home,” District Attorney Seth Williams said at the time of the indictment.

Engelhardt and Shero have both pleaded not guilty.

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