A Perry County judge and church leader charged with sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy had sleepovers with children in his office on multiple occasions and admitted to having addictions to porn and masturbation, according to charging documents.
The investigation into District Judge Michael E. Schechterly launched when police received a tip about “concerning behavior” he exhibited with a 12-year-old in 2015.
During an interview with police, Schechterly, 58, 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, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
According to the affidavit, Schechterly had trouble identifying this particular boy by name because “there have been so many boys it was difficult to recall.”
The victim, now 20 years old, told investigators Schechterly also played with or scratched his genitals in the victim’s presence.
Schechterly said he had a porn addiction and the investigation into the 2015 incident was the “wake-up call he needed,” the affidavit said.
According to the documents, the 58-year-old said he masturbated up to several times a day, sometimes in his district court office, where he had sleepovers with young boys. Schechterly said he did not have a desire for porn or masturbation since he joined a local church group.
Schechterly is known as “Commander Mike” at Newport Assembly of God, where he’s the leader of the church’s Royal Rangers program. The 58-year-old met the 12-year-old through the program, according to the affidavit.
According to its website, the Royal Rangers program “plays a vital role in helping boys develop into Christlike manhood.” It is a national program 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, the affidavit said. Investigators found pornographic videos of women and information about the Royal Rangers program 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 behavior” he’d heard about the judge, the affidavit said.
Investigators learned Schechterly had continued having sleepovers with boys at his office and home over the years, including during the COVID-19 shutdown, according to the affidavit.
Schechterly’s secretary told police they became alarmed one day when the judge followed one of the boys to the bathroom, and a “significant amount of time” passed before they returned, according to the affidavit. The investigators said the boys were not related to Schechterly.
Surveillance footage of Schechterly’s office shows him forcibly holding two boys under the age of 10 on his lap, the affidavit said.
The 58-year-old initially denied the sleepovers, but later admitted to hosting them for boys from the Royal Rangers, according to the affidavit.
“We’re actively investigating this matter. Needless to say, the reports really took us back. This isn’t what we’re about,” said The Rev. Gary Bellis, of Newport Assembly of God. “At this point we’re not aware of any kind of alleged activities occurring on the church premises.”
Bellis is requesting members of the church community to contact him if they have information about abuse.
“We’re just looking for answers here,” he said. “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 defense attorney.
Schechterly, charged with eight sexual abuse offenses, was denied bail and remains at Cumberland County Prison, court records show. The reasoning for denying bail is listed as “danger to public and self.”
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 23 in front of Magisterial District Judge Jonathan R. Birbeck.
Anyone with information about Schechterly and his actions with children are asked to call the Pennsylvania State Police hotline at 717-881-6937.