Prosecution and Defense Complete Opening Statements in Sex Abuse Case Against Priest and Teacher

By Kenneth Lipp and Dustin Slaughter

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the defense team completed their opening statements in the case against Bernard Shero, lay teacher, and Father Charles Engelhardt, accused of sexually abusing a minor in two separate incidents between 1998 and 2000.

Father Engelhardt’s defense attorney, Michael McGovern, is focusing on the plaintiff’s inconsistent statements alleging abuse. During his opening statement, Burton Rose, the attorney for Bernard Shero, the lay teacher accused of raping “Billy” (we are withholding the victim’s name at this time), also highlighted the various versions of events given by the accuser. Rose alleges that Mr. Shero left St. Jerome’s, where he was the victim’s 6th grade homeroom teacher, because of bullying by students, and not because of his alleged guilt.

Both the prosecution and the defense noted Shero’s suicide attempt shortly after his arrest.

The prosecution characterizes the victim’s inconsistent statements as the result of drug abuse brought on by psychological damage from alleged assault by Father Engelhardt and Mr. Shero.

Prosecutors have announced their plan to call the victim’s mother this afternoon as their first witness.

We will update after the close of this afternoon’s proceedings.

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About Kenneth Lipp

Kenneth is a writer and researcher. He’s from Alabama, and will not apologize for it. He moved to Pennsylvania in 2012, but has been in love with Philadelphia since a late-night stroll down Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum in July of 2011 with the love of his life. He is interested in telling Philadelphia’s dynamic and absolutely unique stories with the zeal of a constantly enamored newcomer. Kenneth is also passionate about government transparency and protection of whistleblowers, most notably PFC Chelsea Manning. His research and reporting on law enforcement and surveillance have been featured in various publications, including Rolling Stone (Meet the Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters) and Popular Science (Boston Tested Crowd-Watching Software That Catalogues People's Skin Color). His training is in both genetics and history and he likes the joke about being a helicase and unzipping your “genes.” He’s driven to know, and thinks you can handle, the truth. Follow him on Twitter @kennethlipp.

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