PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A troubled policeman's son who accuses two Roman Catholic priests and a teacher of raping him during boyhood is set to testify at a Philadelphia trial this week - and have his startling claims challenged for the first time.
The young man, identified by the pseudonym Billy in a 2011 grand jury report, testified in a landmark priest-abuse case last year. But in a strategic move, lawyers for the church official on trial never cross-examined him.
Monsignor William Lynn's lawyers doubted Billy's story, but they feared their questions would open the door for jurors to learn that one of the accused priests had taken a plea deal.
Lynn later became the first U.S. church official ever convicted over his handling of abuse complaints. He's serving three to six years in prison for endangering Billy's safety by moving the Rev. Edward Avery, a suspected pedophile, to St. Jerome's Parish.
"I thought I did something wrong - and it's a priest," Billy testified about his 1999 encounter with Avery. "I didn't think anyone would believe me."
The other two rape suspects go on trial Monday, and Billy's credibility - under potentially fierce cross-examination - may determine the outcome.
The Rev. Charles Engelhardt, an Oblate of St. Francis, and Bernard Shero, Billy's sixth-grade teacher, have pleaded not guilty to rape, indecent assault, child endangerment and other charges. Both Engelhardt, 66, of Wyndmoor, and Shero, 49, of Levittown, rejected plea offers of 7 to 15 years in prison, and face far more time if convicted. A gag order prevents them or their lawyers from commenting on the case.