One of the Philadelphia-area priests charged with sexually abusing altar boys in the 1990s lost a bid Wednesday to have his case heard separately.

After a brief hearing, Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said the Rev. Charles Engelhardt would be tried with three other priests accused of child-sex assault or of conspiring to enable the alleged abuse, the judge's office said.

Through his lawyer, Michael J. McGovern, Engelhardt had argued that it was unfair to try him with the others because he belonged to an independent religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales, while his codefendants were priests supervised by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The judge's ruling came two weeks after another defendant in the case, former schoolteacher Bernard Shero, won his bid for a separate trial. Shero, Engelhardt, and a former priest, Edward Avery, are accused of molesting the same Northeast Philadelphia altar boy. Jury selection in the priests' case is scheduled to begin in late February, with opening arguments a month later.

- John P. Martin