Franciscan friars enters pleas in clergy abuse cover-up

Written by Staff Report/WITF | May 4, 2018 4:11 PM

FILE PHOTO: This combination of file photos from March 18, 2016 shows Giles Schinelli, left, Anthony Criscitelli, center, and Robert D'Aversa, when they were arraigned on charges of child endangerment and criminal conspiracy at a district magistrate in Hollidaysburg. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

(Harrisburg) -- Two Franciscan friars are pleading no contest to charges related to a member of their religious order who sexually abused more than 100 children at a Johnstown high school.

The state Attorney General's office says the two Franciscan supervisors are among the first clergy members in the United States to be held criminally liable for covering up sexual abuse of children by other clergy. These are the first members of a religious order in Pennsylvania to be sentenced for the offense.

Robert D'Aversa, 70, and Anthony Criscitelli, 63, entered no contest pleas to endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor.

They are the last two defendants in a case that began with a grand jury investigation and originally charged three clergymen with child endangerment and conspiracy.

The third defendant, Giles Schinelli, was dismissed from the case last year by a judge on statute of limitations grounds.

D'Aversa and Criscitelli were each sentenced today by Blair County Judge Jolene G. Kopriva to the maximum period of probation, which is five years. Each will also be fined $1,000 and costs of prosecution.

The Office of Attorney General charged D'Aversa and Criscitelli in 2016 with failing to properly supervise Brother Stephen Baker, a Franciscan friar and child predator accused of molesting youth while working at a Johnstown Catholic high school in the 1990s. Baker later took his own life.

D'Aversa and Criscitelli oversaw operations of the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular, a nationwide religious order with priests and friars headquartered in Holidaysburg, Blair County.

The pleas entered today were open pleas, meaning that D'Aversa and Criscitelli did not contest the charge of endangering the welfare of children.

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