Teacher and Priest Convicted of Sexual Abuse Claim Prosecutorial Misconduct, Ask for New Trial


Defense Attorney Michael McGovern (foreground) and Rev. Charles Engelhardt.

By Kenneth Lipp

Among the first stories covered by the Declaration was the sex abuse trial of Father Charles Engelhardt and teacher Bernard Shero, convicted in January of 2013 largely by the testimony of one “Billy Doe,” the Commonwealth’s key witness in not only the Engelhardt-Shero prosecution but in the much higher-profile case against Monsignor William Lynn and Father Edward Avery.  Ralph Cipriano, who reported from the courtroom in January 2013, and has covered the Philadelphia Archdiocese sex abuse scandal since memos were discovered in 2005 detailing how the Monsignor Lynn and the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua hid abuse allegations and protected clergy against whom they were made, reports that Father Engelhardt and Mr. Shero have asked for a new trial, and that the circumstances are being kept under judicial-wraps at the request of the District Attorney’s Office.

From the National Catholic Review:

Claiming prosecutorial misconduct, defense lawyers are seeking a new trial in Pennsylvania Superior Court. In their latest filings, they charge that prosecutors violated Brady v. Maryland, a landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says prosecutors can’t withhold “exculpatory evidence” that could clear a defendant.

In a strange twist that confounds legal experts, the court ordered the filings to be sealed.

The charge of prosecutorial misconduct is in an application to amend the appellant brief filed July 9 in Pennsylvania Superior Court by Burton A. Rose, a lawyer for former teacher Bernard Shero. Michael J. McGovern, who is also seeking a new trial for his client Fr. Charles Engelhardt, filed the same application to amend on July 10.

The same day, the district attorney’s office asked the court to seal the records in the cases. On July 29, the dockets in both cases recorded that the seal was granted, but no reason was stated regarding why.

 This latest development in the decade-long investigation and prosecution of sex abuse within the Philadelphia Archdiocese threatens to sully District Attorney Seth Williams’ “historic” prosecution further, now that the “monumental verdict” against Monsignor Lynn has been overturned.

Full Story

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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