Former Ryan principal turns himself in

The District Attorney's Office got its Christmas wish.

The Rev. Charles Newman, former principal of Archbishop Ryan High School, surrendered to authorities here Monday on felony theft and forgery charges.

Newman, dressed in civilian clothes, entered the D.A.'s Office on South Penn Square in Center City about 8 a.m. with defense attorney Frank DeSimone.

"He surrendered, he cooperated, then he was handed over to the police transport unit" and taken to police headquarters, Deputy District Attorney Charles Gallagher said Monday.

Prosecutors contend that Newman, 57, stole at least $900,000 from two religious institutions - the archdiocesan high school and his own order of Franciscan friars - between July 2002 and November 2003, when he served as president of Ryan.

About 8:15 Monday night, Newman was arraigned via video from police headquarters.

"He was a little bit anxious, but I think that's a little normal for any defendant," said Bail Commissioner Francis Rebstock, speaking by phone from the basement of the Criminal Justice Center.

Rebstock set bail at $50,000.

Court records show that Newman posted 10 percent of his bail late Monday night and was released from police headquarters at Eighth and Race streets.

According to a grand-jury presentment, Newman gave a former Ryan student, Arthur Baselice III, cash to purchase drugs, which the two would use while Newman sexually abused the then-high school student. After Baselice graduated in 1996, he stopped Newman from sexually abusing him but continued to receive cash from the friar to purchase drugs, the report said.

Newman was most recently living in Franklin, Wis., where his Franciscan friars order is based.

District Attorney Lynne Abraham, in announcing the charges and the results of the grand-jury investigation last Thursday, said that if Newman failed to surrender "as soon as possible - and I don't mean after Christmas - then we will seek extradition and bring him back here in handcuffs and shackles."

That wasn't necessary.

Over the weekend, Gallagher spoke with DeSimone, who facilitated the surrender.

It was not certain whether DeSimone will represent Newman. He was not available for comment.

A preliminary hearing, scheduled for Monday, Dec. 31, will most likely be continued to a later date because of the number of witnesses involved, Gallagher said.

Baselice, of Mantua, N.J., died of a drug overdose at age 28 on Nov. 30, 2006.

In a 2004 lawsuit, he alleged that Newman repeatedly seduced him with drugs while he was a student between 1994 and 1996. The lawsuit was dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.

Newman was fired from Archbishop Ryan in November 2003 after the archdiocese found "financial irregularities" at the school. Archbishop Ryan, at Academy Road near Chalfont Drive in the Northeast, is the largest Roman Catholic high school in the archdiocese. *

Staff writer Christine Olley contributed to this report