HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — It’s a sight that stuns the eyes, three Franciscan friars filing into court to be arraigned on criminal charges in connection with the rampant sexual abuse of children.

“These three men are charged with conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children,” Deputy Attorney General David Dye said.

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Each stands accused of allowing Brother Stephen Baker, whom the state alleges they knew to be a child predator, unfettered access to children and teenagers.

“Brother Stephen Baker molested in excess of 88 children and it is alleged that these individuals put him in the position where he could offend more children,” Dye said.

State prosecutors say as provincial  leader father Giles Schinelli assigned Baker to Bishop McCourt High School in Johnstown where, as a teacher and athletic trainer, he molested students from 1992 to 2000.

Father Robert D’aversa eventually removed Baker from Bishop McCourt but the grand jury said both he and his successor Anthony Crisitelli gave Baker other assignments with access to young people and that none of the three friars ever contacted police.

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A pattern found also in the state’s related  investigation of the archives of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, where investigators found decades of bishops turning a blind eye to abuse and reassigning predator priests.

“Based on what we saw once we got into the archives of the diocese I don’t think I’m surprised by anything anymore,” Dye said.

Unlike the church leaders cited in the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury report, these Franciscans are not shield from prosecution by the statute of limitation and could face time in prison.

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