Three Franciscan friars, Giles Schinelli 73, Robert D’Aversa, 69 and Anthony Criscitelli, 62, have been arraigned in court on child endangerment and conspiracy charges, for permitting a suspected sexual abuser, Brother Stephen Baker to work in a place where he sexually violated more than 100 children.
Each felony carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Schinelli had previously served as pastoral administrator at the San Pedro Center, a Catholic retreat in Winter Park, Florida, while D’Aversa was the parish priest of St. Patrick Catholic Community in Mount Dora, Florida. Anthony Criscitelli had also been pastor of St. Bridget Parish Community in Minneapolis.
They’re accused of placing Brother Baker in positions where he would have contact with children — including assignments at Bishop McCort Catholic High School. Baker had been previously accused of violating dozens of children from the school between 1992 and 2010.
“My son is dead because of your poor decision-making,” Barbara Aponte of Poland, Ohio, screamed as the three friars entered the court.
Her son, Luke Bradesku, was abused by Baker at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio, and killed himself in 2003 at age 26.
“I thought I made the right decision in sending my son to this school, she lamented. And my heart and my head are in conflict, because my head tells me I didn’t know. My heart tells me I delivered him to a pedophile. I paid for my son to be with a pedophile.”
Baker equally killed himself by plunging two knives into his heart in January 2013. He committed suicide after 11 students pointed accusing fingers at him for molesting them in the late 1980s. Baker was never prosecuted and the attorney general, Kane, has reported he is suspected of molesting more than 100 victims.
The state investigated to see if anyone knew about Baker’s risk to children and turned a blind eye to it.
“These individuals knew that Brother Baker was a child predator and that Baker had faced allegations of child molestation,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said. “These individuals did not report this knowledge to police.”
“The fact that we actually charged people, not for the abuse but for not taking the steps required to stop it, should send a strong signal to everybody in this commonwealth and, we would hope, in other places that action is possible,” said Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane.
At the time they were arraigned, the friars were assigned to duties in Florida and Minnesota. They’ve since been removed by their order, the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular, Province of the Immaculate Conception.
Schinelli’s lawyer said his client will plead not guilty. The other friars’ lawyers didn’t comment Friday.
Schinelli, who served as minister provincial from 1986 to 1994, sent Baker for a psychological evaluation and was told Baker should not have a one-on-one contact with children, the attorney general’s office said, and in-spite of that, Schinelli later assigned Baker to Bishop McCort, where he had daily contact with the children, the grand jury found. Baker worked at the school from 1992 to 2000, teaching religion and serving as an athletic trainer.
After McCort, Brother Baker was reassigned to a position where he held retreats for boys ages 14 to 17 who were considering a religious vocation.