Pennsylvania Catholic High School Employee Charged with Sex Assault of International Students

A Catholic high school employee in Pennsylvania has been charged with sexually assaulted two exchange students. The high school is associated with the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown which was recently investigated for allowing abuse of hundreds of children by priests.

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A former employee of Bishop Carroll High School in Pennsylvania has been charged with sexually assaulting two students who were participating in the school’s international live-in program. 28 year old John Bowman Thornberry will be arraigned later this month.

The high school is located in Edensburg, PA, Cambria County, about an hour outside of Pittsburgh and is associated with the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The Diocese came under fire earlier this year after the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office led a grand jury investigation into allegations of a massive cover-up of child molestation by church employees and priests. The grand jury report revealed that potentially hundreds of children were sexually molested in the Diocese over a period of 40 years. The report has sparked renewed interest in major law changes in Pennsylvania, to allow victims of sex abuse to pursue legal claims against their abusers and any institutions that harbored them.

According to a news release issued by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, Thornberry is accused of sexually assaulting two exchange students while employed as a house parent. Thornberry was tasked with caring for the exchange students and helping with homework, transportation, etc. The assaults are alleged to have occurred in the student resident hall between 2014 and 2016. He’s accused of sexually assaulting one student and attempting to sexually assault another. He faces multiple charges, including:

  • Institutional Sexual Assault,
  • Corruption Of Minors,
  • Endangering Welfare of Children – Parent/Guardian/Other Commits Offense,
  • Criminal Attempt – Institutional Sexual Assault, and
  • Criminal Attempt – Indecent Assault Without Consent.

The most serious offense is Institutional Sexual Assault, a third degree felony. The criminal case will be prosecuted by a deputy attorney general, rather than the local county prosecutor’s office. Bail had been set at $250,000, but was lowered last month to $100,000. Thornberry remains in custody. The arraignment is scheduled for September 27, 2016.

Sex Abuse by Priests in Pennsylvania’s Catholic Dioceses

The recent case comes amid news that 5 dioceses in Pennsylvania are now being investigated for covering up child molestation by church employees. Dioceses in Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton have all been swept up in a massive investigation of sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Dioceses in Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown have already been investigated. Both revealed massive cover-ups and hundreds of allegations of sex abuse by priests and other church employees including teachers. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, Pennsylvania’s criminal and civil statute of limitations laws prevented victims from taking any action.


  • NJ Priest Accused of Sexually Abusing Altar Boy (January 26, 2016) A New Jersey priest has been accused of sexually abusing an altar boy and a girl over 30 years ago. Get the latest here.
  • Parties in a Priest/Pastor Sexual Abuse Lawsuit (February 2, 2013) Who are the parties in a priest or church sex abuse lawsuit? Oftentimes, those who abuse children show a history of behavior over the course of years. Churches and religious organizations often take notice or even receive reports, but fail to take any action, such as contacting law enforcement or otherwise preventing the offender from having contact with children. In these instances, such entities can be held liable in a civil lawsuit.

If you or a loved one was the victim of sex abuse in a church setting in Pennsylvania, please contact our experienced victims lawyers for a free, confidential consultation at (866) 641-0806.

Our attorneys represent victims of crime throughout the Northeast area. They also work with lawyers nationwide and can obtain special admission in other states on a case by case basis.

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