By Jennifer Van Doren | Philadelphia Inquirer
Several hours after Edward Joseph Leidy admitted that he molested four preteen boys throughout his career as a Civil Air Patrol captain and Boy Scout leader, a Bucks County jury convicted him yesterday of raping the only former cadet to press charges.
Leidy, 48, of Phoenixville, showed no emotion as the guilty verdicts on charges of rape and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse were read, his bail was revoked, and he was led away in handcuffs. Jurors deliberated for less than an hour. Sentencing was deferred for a psychological evaluation; Leidy could face 10 to 20 years in state prison.
Leidy’s witness-stand confessions even surprised his own attorney, who said he plans an appeal. Leidy maintains that he did not assault the former cadet who brought the charges, nor five other men who also testified that he molested them.
The victim who pressed charges was an 11-year-old Civil Air Patrol cadet in 1985 when Leidy’s assaults began at his remote Upper Bucks County farmhouse and progressed from fondling to oral sex and to sodomy. As the verdicts were read, the man, now 23, embraced his tearful family, who crowded the courtroom’s front row.
“I’m just so happy,” said the man, a newlywed, who now lives in Maryland.
The three-day trial brought dramatic testimony from nine male witnesses who said Leidy molested them at the farmhouse outside of Quakertown, in his truck, or at campgrounds. Some of the allegations dated as far back as the 1970s, and one was as recent as last year, from a 13-year-old.
Leidy testified that he was involved with the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary of the Air Force, for more than 30 years, and with Boy Scout troops for the last 10.
Gerald Mandlowitz, Leidy’s attorney, argued that allowing the other men to testify was unnecessary, unfair and prejudicial. Bucks County Court Judge Edward G. Biester instructed jurors several times that the testimony from the nine other men could only be used to show a common scheme, plan, design or motive in Leidy’s conduct.
Leidy faced charges involving only the 23-year-old former cadet, because the statute of limitations for the other cases had expired, or the crimes occurred outside Bucks’ jurisdiction, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Terry Houck. Charges in such cases can be prosecuted within five years of the victim’s 18th birthday.
One of the men that Leidy admitted molesting testified that when he was a 12-year-old cadet in the mid-1980s, Leidy fondled him, performed oral sex, and molested him in the shower. Another man, who also said Leidy molested him during that same time, said Leidy tried to rape him. A third testified that Leidy assaulted him at a New Jersey Boy Scout camp in 1972. The fourth molestation that Leidy admitted to was a boy whose name he could not remember. Leidy said none of the molestation’s ever progressed beyond fondling.
He faces related charges in this case in Berks County and could face other charges from two teens who testified about recent assaults in Chester County.
UPDATE: (November 8, 1996)
Labeled a predator by a Bucks County judge, a former Milford Township man will spend 10-20 years in state prison for having sex with an 11-year-old boy in 1985 while the child was in his Civil Air Patrol cadet squadron.
Bucks County Judge Edward Biester Jr. gave Edward J. Leidy the maximum sentence for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, of which Leidy was found guilty by a jury in September.
“You are a predator, sir,” Biester said. “Predators must be punished.”
Gerald Mandlowitz, Leidy’s lawyer, said the sentence was not unexpected in light of the trial testimony of nine men who said Leidy abused them. Leidy admitted molesting three boys, one in the Boy Scouts and two in the Civil Air Patrol, but denied molesting the accuser who brought him to trial.
Nonetheless, Mandlowitz said, “It was harsh, frankly,” and an appeal is planned.
The sentence was issued in the first child sex case brought to trial in the county by so old a victim. When he reported the abuse, the victim was 23 — the age limit Pennsylvania law gives for child rape victims to come forward. The victim’s name is being withheld because of the nature of the crime.
The victim called the sentence a good one.
“Hopefully the prisoners will take good care of him — give him a taste of his own medicine,” the man said.
Leidy was convicted of performing oral sex on the boy and having the boy perform oral sex on him from spring through fall in 1985 when the child would stay overnight at Leidy’s house on Grant Road in Milford. The boy lived in King of Prussia at the time and was a cadet in Leidy’s Civil Air Patrol squadron based in Norristown. The patrol is a quasi-military volunteer group that assists in air crashes.
“He was in the Civil Air Patrol. Why?” Biester said of Leidy during yesterday’s sentencing hearing. “He was in the Civil Air Patrol to make victims of children. He was in the Civil Air Patrol to achieve a certain level of authority so he could exploit young boys.
“They were looking to him for guidance, leadership,” Biester continued. “It was all a fraud. Instead of giving examples of character and leadership, he gave them humiliation, degradation, force, grief.”
However, Mandlowitz said Leidy did some good in the Civil Air Patrol, receiving a Medal of Valor for rescuing a man from a collapsing mine shaft in 1979. Prosecutor Terrence Houck said the Civil Air Patrol, which cooperated in the Leidy investigation, might not have honored Leidy if it had known what he was doing to children.
“For every life he says he’s saved, I can probably point to several he has destroyed,” Houck said.
Leidy, in a dichotomous speech, said he was “sorry for everything that happened” and the grief he caused, but added: “I maintain my innocence in this case.
“I know I’ve done some pretty horrible things in my life, but I know I’ve done some good things,” he said. “I’m sorry for the whole thing.”
Early next year, Leidy is expected to stand trial in Berks County to face charges leveled by his Bucks County accuser that Leidy molested him at a Civil Air Patrol camp there.