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Philly priest-abuse case in hands of jury

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 25, 2013 at 3:15 pm •  Published: January 25, 2013

"No dollar amount could fix this, and never could," Cipolletti argued.

Central details of the accuser's testimony last week differed from the account he first gave the archdiocese in 2009. He told the social worker he'd been raped for five hours by Engelhardt after Mass; beaten and tied with sashes by Avery; and raped by Shero at school.

"(He) is the walking, talking personification of reasonable doubt," defense lawyer Michael McGovern, who represents Engelhardt, argued Friday.

Shero's lawyer, in closings a day earlier, described his visually-impaired client as an easy target who'd been taunted by classmates growing up and by his own students as an adult. That portrait led Cipolletti to wonder why he went into teaching.

Reminding jurors of the big picture, McGovern urged jurors to resist the "groundswell presumption of guilt throughout this country" when priests are accused of molesting children.

Thousands of people have accused Catholic priests around the country of abuse, but the complaints were routinely locked in "secret archives," according to evidence that's emerged in litigation over the past decade. Several states, including Pennsylvania, have since extended the time limit for child sex-abuse victims to pursue criminal or civil action.

Philadelphia prosecutors saw their chance with the policeman's son, whose claims were still viable under the new statutes.

And because Avery had been transferred to the boy's parish despite an earlier, credible abuse complaint, they could charge Monsignor William Lynn, the secretary for clergy at the archdiocese, with child endangerment.

Lynn, 62, was convicted last year and is serving three to six years in prison.