A Catholic school teacher jailed on child rape charges was released from prison a decade early after a court threw out the conviction amid questions about the accuser’s credibility.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Bernard Shero, 54, a former teacher at St. Jerome school, pleaded no contest Monday to child rape and assault charges. In turn, he was sentenced to four years in prison he’s already served, allowing for his release on Wednesday.
“The option was staying in jail for 11 1/2 years or pleading no contest and getting out today,” one of Shero’s lawyers, Jeffrey Ogren, told reporters.
In 2013, a judge sentenced Shero to 16 years on rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, child endangerment, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault charges. The accuser’s testimony also helped put away three other church officials, according to the ABC6.
One of the high-ranking church officials was Monsignor William Lynn. Lynn was prosecuted for failing to report sexual abuse complaints involving priests. However, Catholic World News reported that his child endangerment conviction was also overturned on appeal.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, one of these priests, the Reverend Edward V. Avery, pleaded guilty to related charges in 2012 but has since recanted his confession. Another priest, the Reverend Charles Engelhard, died while appealing his conviction.
Former detective Joseph Walsh is said to have told prosecutors several times that he couldn’t verify the accuser’s claims. A court filing alleged that Walsh’s concerns were dismissed, with an assistant district attorney telling him that he was “killing my case.”
The 12-page affidavit also revealed that Walsh informed prosecutors of evidence he gathered that directly contradicted their star witness’s accusations.
Prosecutors declined to speak on the recent plea deal, citing ongoing litigation.
[Featured Image: Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office]