Church youth leader and judge admits abusing boys in his courtroom

Church youth leader and judge admits abusing boys in his courtroom November 5, 2020

Image via Office of the Pennsylvania District Attorney

MICHAEL Schechterly, above, a Perry County judge in Pennsylvania and a leading member of the Newport Assembly of God has been charged with eight counts of abusing boys in his courtroom and at other locations.

Known as “Commander Mike” at the church, where he’s the leader of its Royal Rangers programme, Schechterly, 58, admitting having sleepovers with children in his office on multiple occasions. He also said he was addicted to porn and masturbation.

The investigation into the district judge was launched when police received a tip about “concerning behaviour” he exhibited with a 12-year-old in 2015.

During an interview with police, he admitted touching the genitals of a 12-year-old boy with special needs while they were watching television at the judge’s home in 2015.

Schechterly had trouble identifying the boy by name:

Because there have been so many boys it was difficult to recall.

According to the court documents, Schechterly said he masturbated several times a day, sometimes in his district court office in the presence of young boys.

According to its website, the Royal Rangers programme:

Plays a vital role in helping boys develop into Christlike manhood.

It is a national programme offered at churches across the country.

In August 2015, Schechterly brought four young boys from the Royal Rangers to his district court office in Newport for a sleepover. Investigators found pornographic videos of women and information about the Royal Rangers in Schechterly’s office, but charges were not filed at the time.

The authorities’ attention returned to Schechterly roughly three-and-a-half years later, when a man close to the 12-year-old victim reported “concerning behaviour” he’d heard about the judge.

Investigators learned Schechterly had continued having sleepovers with boys at his office and home over the years, including during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Schechterly’s secretary told police they became alarmed one day when the judge followed one of the boys to the toilet, and a “significant amount of time” passed before they returned.

Surveillance footage of Schechterly’s office shows him forcibly holding two boys under the age of 10 on his lap.

The 58-year-old initially denied the sleepovers, but later admitted to hosting them for boys from the Royal Rangers.

Said Rev Gary Bellis, of Newport Assembly of God, right:

We’re actively investigating this matter. Needless to say, the reports really took us back [sic]. This isn’t what we’re about. At this point we’re not aware of any kind of alleged activities occurring on the church premises.

Rev Gary Bellis. Image via YouTube

Bellis is requesting members of the church community to contact him if they have information about abuse.

We’re just looking for answers here. We’re praying that the truth concerning this matter will be discovered and made known.

Schechterly was a teacher for three years in Halifax and eight years at Perry Christian Academy before he was a judge, according to the affidavit. He then attended law school and became a defence attorney.

Schechterly, charged with eight sexual abuse offenses, was denied bail and remains at Cumberland County Prison, court records show. The reasoning for the bail denial is listed as “danger to public and self.”

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for November 23 before Magisterial District Judge Jonathan R Birbeck.

Meanwhile it’s reported here that the state Judicial Conduct Board filed a petition on Tuesday with the Court of Judicial Discipline seeking an order to suspend Schechterly without pay until the final disposition of the criminal charges against him.

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