2 friars plead to sex abuse cover-up

Pennsylvania
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Two Franciscan friars have pleaded no contest to accusations they improperly supervised a suspected sexual predator accused of molesting more than 100 children, most at a Johnstown high school.

Robert D’Aversa, 70, and Anthony Criscitelli, 63, entered the pleas to endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor. Both were sentenced to five years of probation and fined $1,000 and costs of prosecution.

State prosecutors said the men conspired to cover up allegations against Franciscan friar Stephen Baker before and during Baker’s tenure at Johnstown’s Bishop McCort Catholic High School in the 1990s. Baker later took his own life.

“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 statement. “They chose time and time again to prioritize their institution’s reputation over the safety of victims.”

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