Attorney General Josh Shapiro says two Franciscan friars have accepted plea deals regarding a previous case where they were accused of covering up the sexual abuse of more than 100 children at Bishop McCourt High School in Johnstown.
The two men to enter pleas were Robert D’Aversa, 70, and Anthony Criscitelli, 63. They both 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 clergyman, Anthony Schinelli, was dismissed from the case last year by a judge on statute of limitations grounds.
The Attorney General’s office says those two Friars are amoung the first clergy members in the United States to be held responsible for covering up sexual abuse.
“These defendants knew the abuser was a serious threat to children – but they allowed him to engage with children and have access to them as part of his job within their order,” Attorney General Shapiro said in a press release obtained by WTAJ. “They chose time and time again to prioritize their institution’s reputation over the safety of victims. I won’t stand for that in any institution – and any person who fails to protect and safeguard children in their care will answer to me.”
D’Aversa and Criscitelli were each sentenced today by Blair County Judge Jolene G. Kopriva to the maximum period of probation – five years. Each will also be fined $1,000 and costs of prosecution.
WTAJ will have more on this breaking story tonight on WTAJ News at 5 and 6pm.