Philadelphia Criminal Law News

Jury Selection Begins in Clergy Sex Abuse Trial

The trial for the last two defendants in a high-profile clergy sex abuse investigation is underway.

The Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former parochial schoolteacher Bernard Shero are facing trial starting this week, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The case bears striking similarity to the recent sex abuse cases involving the Boy Scouts of America and more locally, the Penn State sex abuse scandal. In the trial of the other defendants in this case, there was evidence showing how church officials turned a blind eye to the alleged victims to preserve the church's good name.

As a result, lawyers for the last two defendants insisted on a separate trial from the other defendants.

While this strategy can be a good one in some cases, it can also be a risky move. While severing the trials could insulate the defendants from claims made in the other trials, Engelhardt and Schero's trial comes just months after the Rev. William Lynn's conviction. This means potential jurors would likely have a better awareness of the case, as it has been in the news.

As a result, jury selection is expected to take a while in this case. Some say it could be weeks before a jury consisting of twelve jurors and several alternates is finalized.

Just like the Penn State scandal, higher level officials have been implicated in ignoring the abuse. As a result, numerous claims by allegedly abused children went unchecked. Lynn, who was responsible for investigating the charges, is serving a three- to six-year prison term for child endangerment.

In the current case, Engelhardt's charges are far more severe. He allegedly molested a fifth grader, saying he was teaching the boy to "become a man," reports The Inquirer. Shero allegedly raped the same boy while driving him home from school.

As jury selection continues, we're sure to hear more about this trial in the coming weeks.

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