Investigator Testifies at Hearing for Friars in Sex-abuse Case
San Francisco Chronicle
April 14, 2016
Records from a Franciscan religious order show three former leaders knew a friar had been accused of child sex abuse before he was allowed to work at a high school and other jobs where more than 100 people eventually accused him of molesting them as children, an investigator testified Thursday.
Jessica Eger, a special agent with the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, testified for hours about documents that she said showed Giles Schinelli, Robert D’Aversa and Anthony Criscitelli knew of allegations dating to 1977 against Brother Stephen Baker, who killed himself in 2013.
Thursday’s hearing will determine whether the friars will stand trial on child endangerment and conspiracy charges.
The three friars successively headed a Franciscan order in Pennsylvania from 1986 to 2010. Schinelli, 73, assigned Baker to Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, where Baker molested more than 80 students, most while serving as an athletic trainer who massaged boys “so they could run faster,” Eger testified.
D’Aversa, 69, eventually removed Baker from the school upon receiving a “credible” though unspecified sex abuse allegation, only to almost immediately appoint Baker “vocations director,” Eger said. In that position, Baker had regular contact with teenage boys in Pennsylvania and other states at retreats and other events, Eger said.
Criscitelli, 61, took over the order in 2002. He was responsible for seeing that Baker — by then the subject of several sex-abuse allegations in Pennsylvania and Minnesota, where he served in the late 1970s — abided by a “safety plan” under guidelines drawn up by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the wake of nationwide clergy abuse scandal, Eger said.