Last updated: February 20. 2013 2:33AM - 360 Views

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(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.


Associated Press
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