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Thursday, March 22, 2012 4:39 p.m. CDT
By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – A defrocked priest accused of sex abuse in the pedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia pleaded guilty on Thursday, just days before he, another priest and a higher-ranking monsignor were due to go to trial.
Edward Avery, 69, admitted to sex abuse involving a 10-year-old boy and was promptly sentenced by Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to two-and-a-half to five years in prison for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and criminal conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children.
Avery was one of three defendants in the high-profile case at the Archdiocese, the sixth largest in the nation with 1.5 million Catholics.
The trial is due to begin on Monday with Rev. James Brennan, who is charged with child sex abuse, and Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary of the clergy for the Archdiocese, who is accused of child endangerment and conspiracy.
Lynn, who prosecutors say covered up the abuse, is the first U.S. church official to be charged and go to trial.
In a grand jury report in January 2011, Avery was accused of sex abuse involving a child at a parish in the Northeast section of Philadelphia in 1998 and 1999. Avery was defrocked in 2006.
Lynn, who was responsible within the Archdiocese for investigating sex abuse claims from 1992 to 2004, faces the possibility of 14 years in prison if convicted.
Defense lawyers and prosecutors are forbidden from commenting on the case due to a court-imposed gag order.
However, civil attorney Marci Hamilton, who represents six alleged victims in the case, said the guilty plea might be a signal that Avery might be prepared to testify against the others.
“You had to wonder if he was committing himself to being a martyr in the process,” she said.
(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Tim Gaynor)
Defrocked Philadelphia priest pleads guilty to abusing altar boy
The Kansas City Star
22 March 2012
By JOHN P. MARTIN
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — A defrocked Philadelphia priest accused of molesting boys pleaded guilty Thursday, four days before he was to stand trial with two other priests in a landmark case about child-sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Edward V. Avery, 69, was immediately sentenced to 2 1/2 to 5 years in state prison under a negotiated plea with prosecutors.
It was unclear how his plea could affect the trial scheduled to start Monday or if he would become a government witness. Citing a gag order in the case, prosecutors said they could not comment.
But Avery’s decision is likely to increase pressure on his co-defendants, particularly Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former archdiocesan official accused of covering up or enabling child-sex abuse by priests.
In a brief hearing before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, Avery pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiring with Lynn and others to endanger children.
Asked by the judge if he felt he had to plead guilty, Avery paused, then said: “It’s something I have discussed and decided to do.”
He later declined an opportunity from the judge to explain his actions.
Avery’s lawyer, John P. Donohue, told the judge: “In the end, every human being proceeds on this earth as a flawed human being. Father Avery has made some horrible mistakes in his life.”
Prosecutors accused Avery of twice abusing a fifth-grade altar boy in the sacristy at St. Jerome’s Church in Northeast Philadelphia in 1999. An amateur disc-jockey known to some as “the Smiling Padre,” Avery had been assigned to St. Jerome’s in 1993, the year after a medical school student reported to archdiocesan officials that Avery had molested him in the 1970s.
Lynn, as the secretary for clergy, recommended the assignment and was supposed to be part of a team monitoring Avery’s behavior.
When Avery was removed from active ministry in 2003, he complained publicly that it was because of one outdated and unsubstantiated allegation against him. The church defrocked him in 2006 and paid him a severance package.
But at least two more men have come forward to accuse Avery since he, Lynn and three other men were charged in February 2011, prosecutors said.
Under the plea outlined Thursday by Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, Avery also agreed that he conspired with Lynn and others to participate in “a course of conduct” that endangered children.
Lynn, 61, is the lead defendant in the trial slated to start next week. Also on trial is the Rev. James Brennan, charged with molesting a boy in 1996. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Sarmina ordered Avery to begin serving his sentence on April 2. He also has to register as a lifetime sexual offender.
“We hope all of Avery’s victims will feel comforted knowing that kids will be safe from him for several years,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Ex-Philly Priest Pleads Guilty to Sex-Abuse Charge
22 March 2012
By MARYCLAIRE DALE Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA March 22, 2012 (AP)
A defrocked Philadelphia priest pleaded guilty Thursday to sexually abusing an altar boy in a church sacristy, days before he was to go on trial with two other priests in a landmark child sex-abuse case.
Edward Avery, 69, known for his moonlighting work as a disc jockey, pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child. He was immediately sentenced to 2½ to five years in prison.
“In the end, every human being proceeds on this earth as a flawed human being. Father Avery has made some horrible mistakes in his life,” defense lawyer John P. Donohue said at the brief hearing.
The charges stem from Avery’s abuse of an altar boy at St. Jerome’s Parish in northeast Philadelphia in 1999, when Avery was 57 and the boy 10.
Two other priests are still set to go on trial Monday. They include Monsignor William Lynn, the first U.S. church official ever charged with endangering children for allegedly failing to oust accused predators from the priesthood or report them to police.
Avery was at St. Jerome’s despite a credible 1992 complaint that led him to undergo psychological testing at an archdiocesan-run psychiatric hospital, according to a 2005 grand jury report. He was pulled from his parish, put on a so-called “health leave” and then reassigned in 1993, the report said.
Avery’s accuser told authorities in recent years that he had been raped by two priests and his sixth-grade teacher at St. Jerome’s.
A second grand jury report on priest abuse issued last year charged all three of them with sexual assault and alleged two attacks by Avery.
“When Mass was ended, Fr. (Edward) Avery took the fifth-grader into the sacristy, turned on the music, and ordered him to perform a ‘striptease’ for him. … When they were both naked, the priest had the boy sit on his lap and kissed his neck and back, while saying to him that God loved him,” the grand jury report. Oral sex and digital penetration followed, the report said.
Avery said little Thursday and offered no apology to the victim, who was not believed to be in court.
“It’s something I have discussed and decided to do,” said Avery, who has 10 days to report to prison.
His conspiracy plea could be important in the case against Lynn, the secretary of clergy in Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004. Avery did not indicate Thursday whether he will testify against Lynn, and a gag order prevents lawyers from discussing the case. However, he agreed to a series of damaging facts about the archdiocese.
Avery agreed that Lynn and the archdiocese knew of the 1992 abuse complaint filed against him. The teen told Lynn that Avery had molested him after he helped the priest work as a DJ at a West Philadelphia nightclub.
Avery also acknowledged that he was never supervised when he later interacted with altar servers and parish children at St. Jerome’s, and that the archdiocese knew he was still working as a disc jockey, which put him around young people.
Lynn, 61, is charged with two counts each of conspiracy and child endangerment. He faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted. Lynn has said he was following orders from the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other superiors. Bevilacqua died this year, but his videotaped deposition could still be used at trial.
A second accuser alleges that the Rev. James Brennan, 48, assaulted him in 1996, when the boy was 14 and Brennan was on leave from the church after telling Bevilacqua he needed to deal with his own child-sexual abuse.
Both accusers in the case have criminal records and a history of drug addiction. Defense lawyers plan to attack their motives, arguing that they are out for money or want to explain away their troubled lives. That strategy frustrates Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
“As someone said, you can’t expect (them) to go through hell and come out like an angel,” Blaine said.
Avery’s accuser could still be called to testify against Lynn, and would seemingly need to testify in the later trial of his two other alleged molesters, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former teacher Bernard Shero. They are being tried separately because neither was an archdiocesan priest reporting to Lynn.
All four remaining defendants have pleaded not guilty.
About 500 Roman Catholic priests in the U.S. have been convicted of criminal sexual abuse through either guilty pleas or verdicts, according to Terry McKiernan, the founder of BishopAccountability.org. That’s still a fraction of the suspected abusers in the church, he said.
“Very few have even faced criminal charges, obviously because of the archaic statute of limitations and, usually, the superb cover-up job that church officials have done for decades,” McKiernan said.