ShareThis Page

3 friars want judge to dismiss case in supervision of child predator

| Thursday, April 20, 2017, 10:48 p.m.
Giles Schinelli (left) Anthony Criscitelli (center) and Robert D'Aversa when the three Franciscan friars were arraigned on charges of child endangerment and criminal conspiracy at a district magistrate in Hollidaysburg, Blair County, Pa.

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Three Franciscan friars have asked a judge to dismiss criminal charges that they didn't properly supervise a suspected sexual predator accused of molesting more than 100 children, most at a Pennsylvania high school.

Blair County Judge Jolene Kopriva has set an April 27 hearing on the defense motions filed by attorneys for Giles Schinelli, Robert D'Aversa and Anthony Criscitelli, the Altoona Mirror reported Thursday.

D'Aversa, 70, Cristcitelli, 62, and Schinelli, 73, were ordered to stand trial on child endangerment and conspiracy charges following a preliminary hearing last April.

State prosecutors contend the friars either assigned or supervised Brother Stephen Baker when he served at Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown in the 1990s.

Baker fatally stabbed himself in the heart at the Franciscan's St. Bernardine monastery near Hollidaysburg, which the defendants led from 1986 to 2010. Baker killed himself days after the Youngstown, Ohio, diocese announced in early 2013 that 11 students had settled claims they were molested by Baker while he worked at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio, in the late 1980s.

News of the settlement and Baker's suicide prompted more than 90 former McCort students to come forward with molestation allegations, too. Their claims have settled out of court for more than $8 million. Several others have alleged Baker molested them as children, too.

Schinelli approved Baker's assignment at Bishop McCort in 1992 even after he had learned of an unspecified allegation of abuse against him, prosecutors said. Schinelli had written to an out-of-state diocese where the allegation originated and was told no more information was available on the accusation, which Schinelli termed “vague and unsubstantiated” in his correspondence.

Porter argued that Schinelli nevertheless ordered Baker to be examined by a psychiatrist, who found in 1992 that Baker had “no deviate sexual disorder that puts minors at risk,” according to a letter from the doctor.

“The fact that the doctor was ultimately wrong does not impact the knowledge that Schinelli had,” defense attorney Charles Porter wrote in his motion to dismiss the charges.

D'Aversa's attorney, Robert Ridge, argued the friar didn't supervise Baker while he worked at McCort — school officials did. Prosecutors contend D'Aversa had told Baker not to be alone with minors, but Ridge said that was “based on an allegation, not substantiated by evidence of wrongdoing by Baker.”

Criscitelli's attorney, James Kraus, argued that his client didn't have knowledge of the allegations against Baker, and so had no reason to act.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.