Priest Ordered to Pay for Attorney

By John P. Martin
Philadelphia Inquirer
March 25, 2011

A judge has ordered one of the priests charged with raping boys to reimburse the city $1,350 for his court-appointed lawyer during the grand jury investigation into child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Common Pleas Court Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes gave the Rev. James J. Brennan until Friday to repay the First Judicial District. The order could stir a new round of fireworks when, at 2 p.m., Brennan and his four codefendants return to Hughes' courtroom for the second time since their arrests last month.

In a March 14 hearing, Hughes berated Brennan when she learned he had hired private lawyers and that they hoped to be paid by the archdiocese. She said she had approved a court-appointed attorney for Brennan during the grand jury investigation because he told her at the time that he had no money to pay for counsel.

One of Brennan's attorneys, A. Charles Peruto Jr., said Thursday that he would challenge the judge's reimbursement order. Hughes had unfairly singled out his client, he said, adding that Brennan was too nervous at the hearing to adequately explain himself.

According to Peruto, Brennan's brother loaned him the money to hire a lawyer only after the grand jury had completed its work.

"I don't see where the crime is," Peruto said in an interview.

Reimbursement is just one of the issues expected to be addressed at the 2 p.m. hearing. Defense attorneys have also asked the judge to dismiss some of the charges or force prosecutors to justify them in a preliminary hearing.

Brennan is accused of sexually assaulting a teen in 1996, while on a leave of absence from the faculty of Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, Delaware County. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Three other defendants - the Rev. Charles Englehardt, the former Rev. Edward Avery, and onetime parochial school teacher Bernard Shero - are accused of raping an altar boy from St. Jerome's Church in Northeast Philadelphia in the late 1990s.

Avery was defrocked in 2006 over earlier abuse allegations. Shero no longer works as a teacher.

The fifth defendant, Msgr. William Lynn, is accused of endangering children by putting priests he knew to be predators in positions where they would have access to minors. As the secretary of clergy for Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Lynn was responsible for assigning priests around the region.

His case marks the first time a high-ranking church official in the United States has been charged with covering up clergy sex abuse.

Through his attorneys, Lynn has denied the charges.

The archdiocese is paying Lynn's defense bills; the allegations against him relate to his official duties. But an archdiocesan spokeswoman has said the church will not cover the costs of defending the priests charged with sex abuse.

Contact staff writer John P. Martin at 215-854-4774 or


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