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Priest, ex-teacher face sex trial in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA — A troubled police officer’s son who accuses two Roman Catholic priests and a teacher of raping him during boyhood is set to testify at a Philadelphia trial this week — and have his startling claims challenged in court for the first time.

The young man, identified by the pseudonym Billy in a 2011 grand jury report, testified in a landmark priest-abuse case last year. Lawyers for the church official on trial never cross-examined him, but now the strategy has changed.

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Monsignor William Lynn’s lawyers doubted Billy’s story, but they feared their questions would open the door for jurors to learn that one accused priest had taken a plea deal.

Lynn later became the first US church official convicted over his handling of abuse complaints. He is serving three to six years in prison for endangering Billy’s safety by moving the Rev. Edward Avery, a suspected pedophile, to St. Jerome’s Parish.

‘‘I thought I did something wrong — and it’s a priest,’’ Billy testified about his 1999 encounter with Avery. ‘‘I didn’t think anyone would believe me.’’

The other two rape suspects go on trial Monday, and Billy’s credibility — under potentially fierce cross-examination — may determine the outcome. In the adult Billy, the jury will see an accuser who has spent much of his life battling drugs and alcohol.

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