Lawyer questions memory of Philadelphia accuser

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A longtime heroin addict whose complaint helped imprison a Philadelphia archdiocese official came under attack Wednesday, as jurors in a priest-abuse trial learned that he had given three different locations for one alleged rape.

Defense lawyers questioning the gaunt, 24-year-old policeman's son poked several holes in his accounts, some of which he attributed to years of heavy drug use.

The man said he as "semi-comatose ... but standing" when he first spoke with a church investigator in 2009.

The witness, with prompting from a counselor, had called the archdiocese from a drug clinic, ultimately reporting that two Roman Catholic priests and ex-teacher Bernard Shero had sexually assaulted him in about 1999.

Shero, 49, of Levittown, and the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, 66, of Wyndmoor, are on trial, fighting the charges. Now-defrocked priest Edward Avery is in prison after pleading guilty.

During cross-examination Wednesday, Shero's lawyer said the accuser has said over the years that the teacher raped him in his sixth-grade classroom, near a trash bin outside an apartment complex and in the parking lot of a city park.

The accuser explained that he was high when he spoke to the church investigator in a car outside his parents' house, and doesn't remember much of the conversation. His drug habit at times reached 15 to 20 bags of heroin a day, the young man acknowledged.

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