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November 10, 2015

Alleged Sex-Abuse Victim Settles Clergy Claims

The plaintiff in a civil clergy sex-abuse case has settled his claims against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the three men who allegedly abused him.


Billy Doe, who alleged he was abused by priests Charles Engelhardt and Edward Avery and Catholic schoolteacher Bernard Shero, agreed to dismiss his case against the three men pursuant to a settlement in the case. Doe had settled his claims with the archdiocese in August for an undisclosed sum.


Doe's suit was filed under the pseudonym "Billy Doe." The Legal does not name confirmed or alleged sexual-abuse victims.


The case against the remaining clergy defendants was set to begin trial this week in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, but Judge Rosalyn Robinson entered the order approving the stipulation Monday.


Doe's attorneys, Slade McLaughlin and Paul Lauricella, who handled the case with Michael Boni of Boni & Zack, said they could not comment about the specifics of the settlement.


"As we got closer to trial, it became pretty apparent that there was no money to go around with the other individuals we sued," McLaughlin said. "The criminal system is designed for punishment. The civil system is designed for monetary remuneration. To the extent that there's no monetary remuneration, there's no reason to pursue it."


McLaughlin noted Engelhardt had taken a vow of poverty when he joined the priesthood and Avery had signed a petition that he could not afford counsel.


Shero's attorney, Burton A. Rose, said his client did not contribute to the settlement, and he was not found to be culpable by the civil court.


"As far as I know, the case was simply discontinued by the plaintiff for unknown reasons," Rose said.

Rose also noted Shero's direct appeal of his criminal conviction is pending before the state Supreme Court.


Both Nicholas Centrella of Conrad O'Brien, who represented the archdiocese, and Thomas Hurd of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, who represented Engelhardt, did not return a call for comment.


Engelhardt had been convicted of indecent assault, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of a child. In March, a three-judge panel of the Superior Court affirmed Engelhardt's sentence of six to 12 years in prison to be followed by five years' probation. Engelhardt died Nov. 15, 2014.


According to court records, Avery pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endangering the welfare of children. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half to five years of incarceration, court records said.


Shero was found guilty in 2013 of rape of a child, endangering the welfare of a child and indecent assault, court documents said. He was sentenced to eight to 16 years in prison, according to court documents.


According to Lauricella and McLaughlin, the civil case got a bit of a head start by using some of the work done during the criminal case.


However, the diocese also turned over some 17,000 pages of documents for review, and about 45 depositions, including bishops and cardinals, were taken in the case. McLaughlin also noted that, in the lead-up to the trial date, his client had taken a polygraph test about the allegations, which Doe "passed with flying colors," McLaughlin said.


"We really dug very, very deeply into the case," McLaughlin said. "It was an awful lot of legwork."

The case had also named Monsignor William Lynn and former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. Those claims were resolved as part of the August settlement, the case docket shows.

In May, the plaintiff had pointed to the reinstatement of Lynn's criminal conviction in asking the court for summary judgment.


Doe had claimed that, in his role as an archdiocese administrator, Lynn had knowingly shuffled priests accused of misconduct from parish to parish across the state where they could come into contact with children.


Lynn was the first Catholic Church administrative official convicted of endangering the welfare of children abused by other priests. While his conviction was initially overturned, the Supreme Court in April reinstated that conviction, finding Lynn could be convicted for endangering the welfare of children he never directly supervised.


Lynn's conviction left the archdiocese with liability concerns, Doe had argued.

Lynn's attorney, Thomas Bergstrom of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, did not return a call for comment.


Two civil cases brought by plaintiffs alleging they had been abused by priests from the archdiocese settled their lawsuits for undisclosed amounts in the spring.


McLaughlin said few clergy sex-abuse cases remain in the Philadelphia court system.

Max Mitchell can be contacted at 215-557-2354 or Follow him on Twitter @MMitchellTLI. 


Reprinted with permission from the November 10, 2015 issue of The Legal Intelligencer. © 2015 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.


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