Friar travel conditions to be revised
By Kay Stephens
November 19, 2019
Travel conditions are to be revised for the pair of Franciscan friars sentenced in May 2018 to five years’ probation on a child endangerment misdemeanor count in connection with a fellow friar and suspected child predator.
Senior Judge Jolene G. Kopriva said Monday that she would prepare an order, with input from the Blair County Adult Parole and Probation Office, to address travel-related requests from Robert D’Aversa, 72, and Anthony Criscitelli, 65, of Hollidaysburg.
Attorneys for both friars asked in court Monday for their clients’ probation to be modified in ways that will make it easier for them to travel.
The attorneys did not ask for the probation to be terminated early as reported incorrectly in Saturday’s Mirror. Early termination, however, may be an option about a year from now when D’Aversa and Criscitelli finish half of their five-year probationary sentences, as long as they remain in compliance with all probationary conditions.
In support of their request, attorney Robert Ridge, on behalf of D’Aversa, and attorney James Knaus, on behalf of Criscitelli, referred to travel-related issues their clients have been encountering while on probation.
The county probation office has been asking both D’Aversa and Criscitelli to request and secure travel permits for all travel outside Pennsylvania and for all travel involving an overnight stay.
The time it takes to secure a travel permit hasn’t always been sufficient, Ridge said on behalf of D’Aversa whose has family Minnesota.
Ridge also reported that — for lack of a travel permit — D’Aversa had to reject the idea of staying overnight in Altoona with someone suffering from dementia.
Kraus reported that when Criscitelli asked for a travel permit to participate in a bus trip, he was advised to avoid “unnecessary or frivolous” trips.
“Neither of these defendants were accused of being a danger to anyone,” Kraus said in support of the request.
Both men rendered no contest pleas, in May 2018, to a charge of endangering the welfare of a child, as filed by the state Attorney General’s Office.
Criminal charges developed from allegations in a grand jury report identifying fellow friar Stephen Baker as a suspected child predator within their Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular, Hollidaysburg.
Between 1994 and 2010 when D’Aversa and Criscitelli held supervisory roles in the Third Order Regular, Baker was assigned or permitted to work at Johnstown’s Bishop McCort High School, as a religion teacher, athletic trainer and vocations director.
After child-molestation allegations against Baker became public in 2013, Baker committed suicide.
A year later, the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, the Franciscan friars and Bishop McCort paid an $8 million settlement, divided among 88 child abuse victims.
Daniel Dye, assistant chief deputy attorney general, advised Kopriva that he would not object to travel restrictions changes for the friars. But he did ask Kopriva to consider directing D’Aversa and Criscitelli to watch some type of video addressing the ongoing impact of childhood sexual abuse on the victims and their family members.
No objections were raised to Dye’s suggestion about the video. But the suggestion led D’Aversa to advise Kopriva that he and Criscitelli remain very aware of the effects on Baker’s victims, their families, their monastery and themselves.
“We participate in the pain that Brother Stephen caused, and it’s decimated our order,” D’Aversa said while referencing the dwindling number of monastery residents. “Brother Stephen was actually like an atomic bomb in destroying us.”
D’Aversa also said that neither he nor Criscitelli have any assignments outside the monastery.
Had the case gone to trial, testimony was expected to include information about D’Aversa and Criscitelli knew or didn’t know about Baker, along with actions taken, during the years they supervised him.
Kopriva, who was to preside over the trial, recalled an assessment concluding that Baker, at a minimum, was ” a difficult person to deal with and that people walked on eggshells around him.”
“We all have better hindsight,” the judge said. “I think that’s why the charges got filed.”