After three months in Camp Hill, the way-station for newly sentenced inmates in Pennsylvania’s prison system, former Philadelphia parochial school teacher Bernard Shero has arrived at his home for the next 8 to 16 years.
Shero – convicted in January of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, child endangerment, corruption of a minor and indecent assault involving a Northeast Philadelphia altar boy in 1999 – has been moved to the state prison in Houtzdale about 225 miles northwest from lower Bucks County and Northeast Philadelphia where he was born and lived.
Houtzdale, in rural Clearfield County, is already home to several notable Philadelphians including Ira Einhorn, 73, the counterculture guru and international fugitive serving life for the 1979 murder of his girlfriend in Powelton Village, and Craig Rabinowitz, 49, the Merion latex salesman serving life for the 1997 bathtub murder of his wife.
Shero, 50, and the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, were defendants in the second criminal trial resulting from the 2011 Philadelphia grand jury report on the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Engelhardt, 66, a priest for 45 years, was found guilty of child endangerment, corruption of a minor and indecent assault and sentenced to 6 to 12 years in prison in a sexual assault on the same altar boy as Shero.
After Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler sentenced the men on June 12, they were immediately taken to the state prison at Camp Hill, near Harrisburg, the diagnostic and classification center for new Pennsylvania inmates.
Engelhardt remained in Camp Hill on Monday. State corrections spokeswoman Susan Benzinger said Engelhardt also would get a permanent home in another prison. Benzinger said there was no problem with Engelhardt’s assignment: “It’s just taking a little longer than usual.”
Engelhardt’s attorney, Michael J. McGovern, could not be reached for comment. At sentencing, McGovern and Shero attorney Burton A. Rose asked Ceisler to recommend they be assigned to the state prison at Laurel Highlands in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Judges often tell defendants that prison officials usually don’t honor their recommendations and in Shero’s and Engelhardt’s cases there may be an additional problem: Edward V. Avery, another co-defendant, is already there.
Avery, now 71 and a defrocked priest, was charged with Engelhardt and Shero in the assaults on “Billy Doe” at the St. Jerome’s parish school.
Avery pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to 2-1/2 to 5 years in prison. Prosecutors called Avery as a witness against Engelhardt and Shero and Avery shocked the trial by recanting his guilty plea and denying he assaulted Billy.
Engelhardt and Shero maintained their innocence and their lawyers have appealed their convictions to the state Superior Court. Coincidentally, on Tuesday morning a three-judge Superior Court will hear the appeal of Msgr. William J. Lynn, fourth of the five defendants in the clergy sex-abuse case.
The first trial from the 2011 grand jury report ended in June 2012 with the landmark child endangerment verdict against Lynn, 62, the first Catholic church administrator in the United States convicted of a crime for covering up or enabling the sexual abuse of children by priests. He is serving 3 to 6 years in prison in the state prison in Waymart in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The fifth defendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan, 49, is accused in an unrelated incident with the attempted rape of a 14-year-old boy in 1996. Last year’s jury deadlocked and Brennan is to be retried Oct. 21.