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5 plead not guilty in Philadelphia sex abuse cases

By Sarah Hoye, CNN
  • Four priests and a teacher entered pleas
  • The next court date is June 6
  • A February grand jury report led to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office criminally charging the five

Philadelphia (CNN) -- Four priests and a parochial school teacher pleaded not guilty Friday to sexual abuse and conspiracy charges.

Edward Avery and Charles Engelhardt were charged with allegedly assaulting a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome Parish in Philadelphia from 1998 to 1999.

Bernard Shero, a teacher in the school, is charged with allegedly assaulting the same boy there in 2000. Avery was defrocked in 2006.

James Brennan, another priest, is accused of assaulting a different boy, a 14 year old, in 1996. Brennan did not appear in court Friday.

Monsignor William Lynn, who served as the Secretary for Clergy under former Philadelphia Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua was charged with endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the alleged assaults.

Inside a courtroom stuffed with reporters and others present for arraignments, one by one the defendants were called forward to sign court papers alongside their attorneys.

Although there was some squabbling between the assistant district attorney and the defense attorneys over the completeness of the discovery items, such as the location of statements from the accusers, the biggest holdup of the morning was coordinating attorney schedules in order to set the next court date for June 6.

A Philadelphia grand jury report released in February led to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office criminally charging the four Philadelphia priests and the parochial school teacher. All five have also been charged with conspiracy.

Following the release of the 2011 grand jury report, Philadelphia's archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali, placed Lynn on administrative leave on February 18.

A total of 23 priests in the Philadelphia area have been placed on administrative leave.

The Archdiocese placed 21 priests on administrative leave on March 7. Another two priests, who were retired but allowed to assist in priestly duties, were placed on leave on March 30.

A gag order barring all parties involved in the criminal case from talking to the media imposed by a Philadelphia judge remains in effect.