3 friars to stand trial in sex abuse case

Posted at 1:48 PM, Apr 27, 2016

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Three Franciscan friars must stand trial on charges linked to their role in supervising a suspected sexual predator accused of molesting more than 100 children, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The decision comes after additional testimony in their preliminary hearing on child endangerment and conspiracy charges.

Giles Schinelli, Robert D'Aversa and Anthony Criscitelli assigned or supervised Brother Stephen Baker when he served at Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown in the 1990s.

The defense had argued that it's too late to file charges and that their clients did their best to supervise Baker given what they knew.

More than 90 students have settled lawsuits for more than $8 million claiming Baker molested them, mostly while acting as a sports trainer. Baker fatally stabbed himself in the heart days after a diocese settled claims by former high school students in Warren, Ohio, that they had been abused in the late 1980s.

Earlier Wednesday, the school's former principal testified that the Franciscans never told him that Baker had been accused of child sexual abuse.

William Rushin, principal from 1989 to 1997, said he hired Baker as a religion teacher and said Baker eventually volunteered as an athletic trainer.

When asked if he would have hired Baker had he known of the allegations, Rushin replied, "Obviously, it would have been inappropriate to have someone like that working with children."

When charged, Schinelli was a pastoral administrator in Winter Park, Florida; D'Aversa was a pastor in Mount Dora, Florida; and Criscitelli was a pastor in Minneapolis. They have since been removed from their duties.

The friars successively headed a Franciscan order in Pennsylvania from 1986 to 2010.