Jailed priest recants plea in Philly abuse trial

By By MARYCLAIRE DALE

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An imprisoned ex-priest at the center of a landmark Roman Catholic priest-abuse case in Philadelphia says he pleaded guilty to a crime he didn't commit.

Seventy-year-old Edward Avery testified Thursday that he never touched his accuser but feared a long sentence if convicted at trial.

The same accuser says he was raped by Avery, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and ex-teacher Bernard Shero in about 1999.

Engelhardt and Shero are on trial.

Avery's testimony could bolster the defense. But prosecutors note that Avery still faces a civil suit and harassment in prison.

A jury last year convicted Monsignor William Lynn of child endangerment for placing Avery in a parish despite an earlier sex-abuse complaint.

On the stand, Avery admitted to that earlier complaint. But asked if he raped the man accusing Engelhardt and Shero, Avery said: "I did not. So help me God."

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