Testimony in Pennsylvania Franciscan Friars' Child Endangerment Case

A former principal of a Roman Catholic high school testified Wednesday that he was never told by a Franciscan religious order that a friar he hired as a teacher had been accused of child sexual abuse.

William Rushin spoke at the preliminary hearing of three Franciscan friars accused of allowing Brother Stephen Baker to hold jobs where he molested children or posed a threat to children.

The hearing will determine whether Giles Schinelli, Robert D'Aversa and Anthony Criscitelli will stand trial on child endangerment and conspiracy charges.

William Rushin was principal of Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown from 1989 to 1997.

He said he hired Baker as a religion teacher and Baker eventually volunteered as an athletic trainer.

When asked if he would have hired Baker had he known of the allegations, Rushin replied, "Obviously, it would have been inappropriate to have someone like that working with children."

More than 90 students have settled lawsuits for more than $8 million claiming Baker molested them, mostly while acting as a sports trainer.

Baker stabbed himself in the heart in January 2013, nine days after a diocese settled claims by former high school students in Warren, Ohio, that they had been abused in the late 1980s.

When charged, Schinelli was a pastoral administrator in Winter Park, Florida; D'Aversa was a pastor in Mount Dora, Florida; and Criscitelli was a pastor in Minneapolis. They have since been removed from their duties.

The friars successively headed a Franciscan order in Pennsylvania from 1986 to 2010. They assigned and supervised Baker.

Attorneys for the three have said their clients did the best they could to investigate what little they knew of past allegations against Baker and then to supervise him accordingly.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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