Both sides agree: D.G. is a damaged soul.
But as the latest criminal prosecution related to the Philadelphia Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal went to the jury Friday for deliberation, the prosecution said D.G.’s drug abuse and criminal history were related to the alleged abuse he suffered at the hands of two priests and a parochial school teacher, and the defense said it was because of D.G.’s demons that he had been driven to make up the allegations.
The Legal does not name alleged or confirmed victims of sexual abuse.
The jury deliberated for about two hours on Friday before recessing until today.
The prosecution is seeking to prove the priest and the teacher sexually assaulted the same middle-school altar server in separate incidents.
Prosecutors say D.G. was abused in his fifth-grade year, first by the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and then by defrocked priest Edward V. Avery, after he served Mass with them, and that D.G. was abused in his sixth-grade year by Bernard Shero in Shero’s car after Shero offered to give him a ride home after school.
Prosecutor Mark Cipolletti said that when D.G. was in fifth grade, he talked about becoming an FBI agent, but because of the abuse that’s not something he’s ever going to achieve.
Cipolletti said everyone can only hope that D.G. will get peace and be able to put his demons behind him. But he said no amount of prison time for the defendants and no amount of recovery in a civil lawsuit would ever make D.G. whole.
It was not a surprise that someone who was sexually abused by three different men would get into trouble with drugs and then get into trouble with the criminal justice system, Cipolletti said.
“We don’t know what he’s going to become,” Cipolletti said.
Michael McGovern, one of the attorneys for Engelhardt, said he recognizes the pain that D.G.’s family has experienced watching him deteriorate, but “Father Engelhardt did not cause his pain.”
McGovern attributed D.G.’s slide into substance abuse in the ninth grade to his grief over his grandmother’s death. D.G. also has stated he started using marijuana at the age of 11 and smoked it pretty much every day.
Shero, a former Catholic school teacher, is also on trial with Engelhardt.
Avery pled guilty in early 2011 to sexually abusing D.G., but when Avery took the stand he said that he only took the guilty plea to avoid a longer prison sentence.
Shero’s defense attorney, Burton Rose, argued that Avery had a lot to lose by giving that testimony. Rose said it added credence to the defense theory that D.G. made up that he was sexually attacked by the two priests and the teacher in a year’s span.
When he was called to testify in the trial last week, Avery said that he was only able to plead guilty because he was asked by Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, after a recitation of facts by a prosecutor, if those were the facts to which Avery was pleading guilty, Rose said. Avery said he would not have been able to plead guilty if he had been asked directly, Rose said.
“Edward Avery has a lot to lose and nothing to gain [by coming into court and saying] that, ‘I took the guilty plea to avoid dying in jail,’” Rose said. Prosecutors will be able to write to the state Parole Board indicating that Avery is not cooperating with the criminal justice system, and that would weigh heavily on Avery being able to get out of prison when he is first eligible for parole on his 2 1/2-to-five-year sentence, Rose said.
The prosecution, however, said that it was no surprise that Avery would revert to denying his sex crimes.
Perhaps Avery wanted to help “one of his friends,” or perhaps he wanted his denial to be publicly reported so word would get back to his fellow state-prison inmates, Cipolletti said.
One of the allegations in the case is that Avery told D.G. he heard about his “sessions” with Engelhardt, and that they would have their own “sessions.”
McGovern said that there is “no corroboration of any of the accusations in the case,” including that no one else has come forward to say that they were abused by Engelhardt since the criminal allegations became public.
The uncorroborated testimony of a victim is enough to convict a defendant, Cipolletti said, but he said other witnesses’ description of D.G.’s change in behavior was corroboration.
The defense argued that D.G. did not have a change in behavior until the ninth grade, which is when he got into trouble with substance abuse.
Cipolletti said that there must have been something about D.G. that led his alleged abusers to conclude that he was a “child who wouldn’t run, who wouldn’t tell, who wouldn’t scream” without stating a specific reason as to why that was.
McGovern pointed to a version of events D.G. told to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Louise Hagner after he first reported his abuse to the church in which he described a five-hour period of being assaulted in the sacristy of the church. In contrast, when interviewed by a detective at the District Attorney’s Office, D.G. said nothing about anal rape at all and he recounted only one instance of abuse, McGovern said. In a second interview with the District Attorney’s Office, D.G. said there were two sessions in which Engelhardt molested him, McGovern said.
It is not uncommon for male sexual-abuse victims to exaggerate the amount of abuse they experienced out of embarrassment of what happened to them, Cipolletti argued.
The interviews with the detective were not meant to be word-for-word statements, Cipolletti also said.
The prosecutors also said Hagner interviewed D.G. while he was high, while the defendants said she did not.
Rose also argued that there was no evidence that Shero socialized with Engelhardt and Avery.
While Shero, who is visually impaired, is socially awkward, he is not a child rapist, Rose said.
There was “no grooming, no careful build-up [as is typical with sex-abuse cases] … and he never returns for a follow-up,” Rose argued. “What are the odds that these facts can be true?”
But Cipolletti said that Shero, who taught D.G. for almost an entire year, did groom him, by rubbing his shoulders, touching his back and getting into his personal space in order to test if he would complain to his parents as other children in his classrooms did.
Prosecutors say Engelhardt, after catching D.G. drinking the communion wine, made him drink more wine and showed him nude pictures. When the incident went unreported, prosecutors said that Engelhardt then molested him.
Shero and Engelhardt had their cases severed from the trial of Monsignor William J. Lynn, the first Catholic Church official in the country to be charged with harming sexual-abuse victims whose abuse he was responsible for investigating.
Engelhardt is a member of the teaching order Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.