The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

April 26, 2013

McCort probe widens

JOHNSTOWN — Attorneys for alleged victims of the late Brother Stephen Baker want the Franciscan Friar’s supervisors held accountable for what they believe was years of sexual abuse of children.

In addition to dozens of former Bishop McCort High School students, attorneys say they have been contacted by others who say Baker made contact with them through his volunteer activities.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian said he is working with more than 30 men who say Baker molested them while they were students at Bishop McCort in Johnstown.

“I am currently investigating the liability of the school and Brother Stephen Baker’s supervisors,” Garabedian said.

“Students at the school would see other students being sexually molested at the school by Brother Stephen Baker. Common sense would dictate that teachers also should have seen the sexual abuse.”

Some of Garabedian’s clients say they told teachers about the abuse, but were “rebuffed and disbelieved,” he said.

Bishop McCort is conducting its own investigation, but board Chairman Mark Pasquerilla said it’s too early to comment on any findings.

“I can’t talk about it,” Pasquerilla said. “We are in litigation. That’s all I can tell you. We haven’t gotten to that point.”

That probe put McCort Principal Ken Salem on administrative leave on March 1. He was replaced by former Assistant Principal D.A. Gardill. No reason was given for the decision.

Pasquerilla said Salem’s status remains unchanged, but would not say when any permanent decision will be made.

“I don’t have any comment,” he said, offering to have the board’s spokesman call The Tribune-Democrat.

Matt Beynon, president of the public affairs firm Madison Strategic Ventures in Arlington, Va., has acted as board spokesman during the investigation. He did not call the newspaper, but sent this statement by email:

“Be assured that the Board of Trustees is committed to providing updates as possible under the legal context.”

Responding to a second request for an interview, Beynon responded with an email highlighting a recent donation to the school, a blood drive and running event – all reported in the newspaper.

In addition to the 30-plus former McCort students represented by Garabedian, there are at least a dozen more alleged victims locally, represented by attorneys Michael Parrish of Johns-

town, Richard M. Serbin of Altoona and Susan Williams of Greensburg.

One of Williams’ clients was a 15-year-old girl when the alleged abuse occurred.

Judy Block-Jones of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said the group believes the total number who have come forward is around 70.

But the number could go higher. Garabedian believes there are “hundreds of victims” from McCort.

“There may be people who are still deciding (to come forward), who have not contacted me,” Serbin said. “For some people it is a slow process of coming forward.”

Not all are Bishop McCort students, Serbin said.

“Some of these young people were involved in parochial school and came into contact with Brother Baker in that context,” Serbin said.

“Brother Baker took young people to the training room where he massaged kids who were not students.”

Baker is said to have acted as an athletic trainer at McCort and also volunteered with other sports programs to gain access. Serbin said he has found no evidence Baker was ever trained or certified as a trainer.

Baker was accused of touching children’s genitals and sexually assaulting them during his massages.

“He even during the summer and on weekends would attend functions where boys were participating in various activities,” Serbin said. “He was always around, whether as a trainer or a scorekeeper or a coach. I heard he even prepared meals in the home ec room for some of the activities.”

Most of the alleged victims tell the same story, Garabedian said.

“Brother Stephen Baker was extremely clever in holding himself out as an athletic trainer or athletic coach and responsible religious brother,” Garabedian said. “Brother Baker would use those positions of authority to manipulate innocent children so he could repeatedly sexually abuse those children.”


Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • WilliamsA ‘I thought I was going to die’

    Hornerstown resident Robert “Bobby” Williams said he endured two hours of surgery, suffered a heart attack and fears he may never again be able to fully use his right arm.

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • JFD traing Firefighters practice river rescues

    Johnstown Fire Department members lift a “victim” out of the rescue basket during training Wednesday along the Stonycreek River flood-control wall

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    Here are the names of the 10 entrants that were chosen today-April 22, 2014.  If you see your name, call the Circulation Department at 814-532-5000 (#1) or 1-866-307-0905 to verify your information.

    April 22, 2014

  • sewer meeting map Sewer work will tie up traffic

    Brace yourselves.
    This summer’s sewer main replacement project will delay traffic with detours, closed streets and lane restrictions through one of Johnstown’s notoriously snarled neighborhoods.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • USS Somerset USS Somerset arrives at San Diego homeport

    The USS Somerset is home.
    The amphibious transport dock ship named in honor of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 arrived at its new homeport of Naval Base San Diego on Monday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jablonski, Stephen Charges filed in courthouse bomb threat

    A Johnstown man was charged by Ebensburg Borough police Wednesday with threatening to blow up the Cambria County Courthouse, a call he admitted to Ebensburg police he made Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vizza, Peter Vizza voted deputy mayor

    The top vote-getter in last year’s Johnstown City Council election is now also the city’s deputy mayor.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Conemaugh Township rezoning opens business possibilities

    A portion of South Main Street in Davidsville will be rezoned to give greater allowances to the businesses along the road.

    April 23, 2014

  • Sculptor’s work to be raffled off

    The work of a local sculptor will be raffled off during the Art in Bloom show.

    April 23, 2014

  • Katie and Gary Lamer Birthday remembrance bash provides aid to region

    It’s been four years since Johnstown resident Gary Lamer died of complications from pneumonia, but his memory lives on through an annual party that gives back in a big way.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo


Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads