Pennsylvania: Ex-Priest Recants Guilt in Abuse Case
An imprisoned former priest at the center of a landmark abuse case testified Thursday that he had pleaded guilty to a sexual assault he did not commit. The former priest, Edward Avery, 70, admitted to an earlier abuse complaint, but said he had never had any contact with the accuser in a continuing criminal trial and had taken a plea deal because he had not wanted to risk a longer sentence if convicted.
Asked if he raped the accuser, now 24, Mr. Avery said: “I did not. So help me God.” The same man claims he was raped by Mr. Avery, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and a former teacher, Bernard Shero, starting when he was a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999. Father Engelhardt and Mr. Shero are fighting the charges. Mr. Avery’s testimony could bolster their defense if jurors believe him over the accuser, a longtime heroin addict who testified Wednesday.
But in questioning by prosecutors, Mr. Avery conceded that an admission of guilt would hurt him in the accuser’s civil lawsuit. A jury last year convicted Msgr. William Lynn, 62, of child endangerment for placing Mr. Avery in a parish despite the sexual abuse complaint. Mr. Avery pleaded guilty on the eve of Monsignor Lynn’s trial and accepted a 2 1/2-to-5-year sentence.