A judge has sentenced a Roman Catholic priest to six to 12 years in prison and a former teacher to eight to 16 years in a sex-abuse case that brought down a Philadelphia church official.
The Rev. Charles Engelhardt of Wynnewood and Bernard Shero of Levittown maintained their innocence at today's sentencing.
In January, a Philadelphia jury returned guilty verdicts on child-sex charges against the two men.
The verdict supports accounts by a 24-year-old policeman's son that he was sexually abused by the Engelhardt between 1998 and 1999 and Shero, a former sixth-grade teacher, in 2000 when he was an altar boy.
Shero says he believes he was targeted because his visual impairments make him an easy target.
He says he never had any problems with his accuser in class in the 1990s.
Engelhardt says he doesn't remember the accuser, who has long struggled with heroin addiction and related legal problems.
Also inside the packed courtroom today were the parents of the victim, Shero's family, and six other priests.
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
The victim's 2009 complaint provided the hook for Philadelphia prosecutors to bring the nation's first criminal charges against a U.S. church official for allegedly covering up sexual abuse by priests.
The jury convicted Shero of rape, attempted rape, indecent sexual assault and other charges. Engelhardt was convicted of indecent assault of a child under 13, corruption of a minor and conspiracy with Avery.
The jury deadlocked on one count, an indecent sexual assault count against Engelhardt.
"The victim is this case has shown exceptional courage," said District Attorney Seth Williams when Engelhardt and Shero were convicted. "Not only did he have the strength to report his abuse, he had the tenacity to look his abusers in the eye and testify in front of complete strangers about the horrific details of his attacks. I hope this verdict will help him to continue with the long journey of healing that comes after such trauma.”
The sexual abuse complaints led to the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn, who had transferred Avery to the parish despite concerns he was a pedophile.
Common Pleas Judge Ellen Ceisler says the far lower guideline sentences are not long enough for the damage done.