The legal battles of Jehovah's Witnesses in western Pennsylvania laid the foundation for religious liberties
WGAL News 8 - child sex abuse claims at the Jehovah's Witness Yorkana Congregation, Pennsylvania, USBy Jack Ryan
TV NEWS REPORT - WGAL News 8 - child sex abuse claims at the.mp4
For context, this congregation is one over from the Red Lion Congregation. Both Congregations were mentioned in the Philadelphia Inquirer article. People go back and forth between the two like the wind. It's absurd that police weren't called on these levels of abuse going on. And that's just (2) incidents that are being covered in the local news.
By Guest Nicole
Along with Bible teachings and online lessons on how to lead a good life and find peace and happiness, the Jehovah Witnesses website at JW.org also offers serious insight and words of caution to parents about sexual child abuse.
And, that makes the recent Philadelphia Inquirer story alleging that Jehovah's Witness elders have repeatedly covered up sexual abuse of members' children, shunned members and victims who raised complaints of child abuse and have impeded police investigations into abuse allegations even more shocking.
Among the victims of the Witnesses' shunning and stonewalling tactics interviewed by Inquirer reporter David Gambacorta were:
The parents of a 4-year-old New Cumberland girl who was molested at the Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall in Red Lion A Spring Grove woman who was molested when she was a teen by a Witness who was a family friend A York woman who was molested in her teens by a couple she knew through the Jehovah's Witnesses. Three defendants identified in the Inquirer investigative piece were prosecuted and sentenced in York County. A fourth is awaiting prosecution.
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By The Librarian
Can you find more photos or videos related to this particular convention year?
or even better... were you there?
By Jack Ryan
The family of a Jehovah's Witness who died after repeatedly refusing blood transfusions can't sue the hospital where doctors begged for a chance to save her life, a state appeals court ruled.
The case, outlined in an opinion by Superior Court Judge Jacqueline O. Shogan, involves a convergence of religion, medicine and the law.
Its focus is on what happened before Terri Seels-Davila, a Jehovah's Witness missionary, died after giving birth at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia in November 2010.
Seels-Davila, who had been serving on mission with her husband in Nicaragua, chose Hahnemann because of its "bloodless medicine" program for patients who won't agree to having blood transfusions, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Shogan noted. The treatment plan for Seels-Davila called for recycling her own blood back into her system.
Yet that proved to be inadequate when complications of her delivery required Seels-Davila to deliver by cesarean section. She developed internal bleeding. Even though doctors warned that her condition was dire, Seels-Davila, her husband and other family members refused to consent to a transfusion, court filings state.
Those filings include testimony from a doctor who said Seels-Davila told him "she was a minister of the faith...and that she was OK with whatever happened." Seels-Davila died four days later.
Seels-Davila's family sued the hospital for medical malpractice in 2012. During a civil trial three years later, a Philadelphia County jury ruled in favor of the hospital and the doctors who treated her.
The family's failed appeal to the state court represented an attempt to revive the suit. Seels-Davila's relatives claimed, among other things, that the county judge wrongly prevented an expert witness from testifying against the bloodless medicine program and didn't allow them to press a claim for corporate negligence.
Shogan agreed that the expert witness wasn't qualified to testify in the case. The family's failure to provide a competent expert witness also undermined its corporate negligence claim, she found.
The state judge found as well that the county judge rightly allowed the jury to see the consent forms Seels-Davila signed in which she explicitly refused to consent to transfusions.
"The consent forms were not admitted merely to show that Seels-Davila understood the risks of treatment, yet elected to proceed," Shogan wrote. "The consents were admitted to prove that Seels-Davila knowingly refused treatments that would have saved her life."
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By The Librarian
On Friday three Franciscan friars charged with allowing a suspected sexual predator to hold jobs where he molested more than 100 children, surrendered in Pennsylvania. They were confronted by the mother of one of his victims who said to them her 26 year old son committed suicide because of their 'bad decision making.' 69 year old Robert D'Aversa, 62 year old Anthony Criscitelli, and 73 year old Giles Schinelli, are free on unsecured bond until an April 14 preliminary hearing on child endangerment and conspiracy charges. Each charge is a third-degree felony carrying up to seven years in prison.
WILKINSBURG, Pa. -- Two gunmen working as a team fatally shot five people including a pregnant woman and critically wounded two others at a backyard cookout, with one attacker using a rifle to shoot the victims in the head as they were driven in his direction, a prosecutor said Thursday.
"The murders were planned. They were calculated, brutal," District Attorney Stephen Zappala said of the Wednesday nighttime shootings.
The medical examiner officially ruled the death of the fetus a homicide Thursday afternoon, bringing the official count of fatalities in the late Wednesday night ambush attack to six.
The gunmen appeared to have targeted one or two of the victims, said Zappala, who added that they hadn't ruled out drugs as a motive.
Four women, one of them eight months' pregnant, and a man were killed as they rushed toward the back porch to seek cover as a gunman fired a .40-caliber pistol at as many as 15 adults who were playing cards and having a late-night cookout.
That steered the victims toward the rear porch and door of the house, where an accomplice armed with a 7.62 mm rifle similar to an AK-47 shot them from behind a chain-link fence less than 10 feet from the porch, Zappala said.
Neither weapon has been found.
The man with the rifle aimed high throughout the barrage of bullets. Four of the dead were found on the tiny back porch.
"They were all head shots," Zappala said.
The dead included three siblings, Brittany Powell, 27, who lived at the home; Jerry Shelton, 35; and Chanetta Powell, 25. The other two were Shada Mahone, 26, and Tina Shelton, 37.
"My whole family was massacred," said Jessica Shelton, the mother of the siblings and aunt of the other two killed.
"It doesn't make sense to take people's lives like that," said Jessica Shelton, who had been at the party earlier in the evening.
Her daughter Chanetta was eight months' pregnant, she said. And she said one of the critically wounded victims is also her son.
One of her grandchildren was at the party and saw his mother lying dead, then ran upstairs, Shelton said.
"He said he didn't want the bad men to get him," she said.
She said she didn't know why anyone at the party would have been targeted.
All of the victims were hit by shots from the rifle, and none from gunfire from the pistol, which "looked like a distraction almost," said agent Chris Taylor, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He said 49 shots were fired in total, 31 from the rifle.
All of the victims had multiple wounds.
"It looks like right now they were all fleeing toward the back door of the residence when the second gunman fired from the side of the yard," said Lt. Andrew Schurman of the Allegheny County homicide unit. "They all seemed to get caught on the back porch."
Carl Morris and his son, Robert, were getting ready to leave their house across the street when they heard a volley of three shots, a pause, then gunfire lasting more than a minute.
Robert Morris said he saw children run onto the small back porch and heard someone scream, "Mommy, Mommy!"
"It was terrible," the younger Morris said.
The Morrises said Brittany Powell lived at the home with a daughter who was about 6 or 7. They said the house was considered a "safe haven" in the neighborhood.
The backyard is about 30 feet by 50 feet. Police said they found one pile of shell casings just outside the yard in an alley, where they believe the .40-caliber pistol was fired, Zappala said. They found more shells along a fence that separates the house from a neighbor's yard, which is where Zappala said the rifle was fired.
Bullet holes were visible Thursday around the porch addition. Tables and chairs, some tipped over, remained in the backyard, signs of a party quickly abandoned.
The gunmen fled on foot.
Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said at a press conference Thursday afternoon that there are no firm suspects, but investigators are pursuing several leads, reports CBS Pittsburgh.
The station reports that a $20,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest.
Wilkinsburg is a poorer, largely blighted suburb just east of Pittsburgh that is known for drug trafficking and gun violence. But neighbors described the street on which the shooting occurred as generally quiet.
After the shooting, groups of residents gathered on the street, some of them sobbing and saying they lost family members.
Mike Jones, 57, has lived in a duplex on a small hill overlooking the alley and backyard where the shooting occurred.
Although Wilkinsburg has a reputation for violence, Jones said it has been rare in his neighborhood, which is about a block off a major street about a half-mile from Interstate 376, the major commuter artery through Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs.
"This is unheard of," Jones said, shaking his head as homicide detectives milled about in the yard and alley. "It doesn't happen around here."
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald urged witnesses to step forward, saying that "can be our first step to stopping the violence in our communities."
"As a community, we must say enough is enough," he said.
By Guest Nicole
By David DeKok
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Hundreds of children in western Pennsylvania were sexually assaulted by about 50 Roman Catholic priests over four decades while bishops covered up their actions, according to a state grand jury report released on Tuesday.
The report found that former Altoona-Johnstown Diocese Bishop James Hogan, who died in 2005, and his successor, Joseph Adamec, who retired in 2011, worked to cover pedophile priests' tracks and that some local law enforcement agencies also avoided investigating abuse allegations, said state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
"The heinous crimes these children endured are absolutely unconscionable," Kane told reporters in unveiling the report, based on a two-year investigation. "These predators desecrated a sacred trust and preyed upon their victims in the very places where they should have felt most safe."
Revelations that some priests had habitually sexually abused children and that bishops had systematically covered up those crimes burst onto the world stage in 2002 when the Boston Globe reported widespread abuse in the Boston Archdiocese.
That report, which won a Pulitzer Prize and was the subject of last year's Academy Award-winning film "Spotlight," set off a global wave of investigations that found similar patterns at dioceses around the world. They led to hefty lawsuits and seriously undermined the church's moral authority.
No criminal charges will be filed because the alleged incidents are too old to be prosecuted, Kane said.
Advocates for victims of sex assault have long urged lawmakers to give prosecutors more time to bring charges of sex assaults of minors, noting that particularly in the case of assaults by members of the clergy, victims can take years to come forward.
The report contains explicit details of scores of attacks, naming perpetrators, many of whom have since died. Many of the surviving priests were still serving parishes at the time the investigation began, Kane said, but all have since been removed by the current bishop.
"This is a painful and difficult time," current Altoona-Johnstown Bishop Mark Bartchak said in a statement. "I deeply regret any harm that has come to children.
"We're saddened but not the least bit surprised," said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "It proves what we've long maintained: that even now, under the guise of 'reform,' bishops continue to deceive parishioners and the public about their ongoing efforts to hide abuse."
Adamec, the retired bishop, did not respond to a request for comment.
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