Archive for Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fugitive Texas priest, who was captured in Lawrence, charged with hiring hitman to kill teen who accused him of sexual abuse

November 24, 2010

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This Nov. 18, 2010 photo provided by the Dallas County Sheriff's Department shows John Fiala. Fiala, a former Roman Catholic priest charged with sexually abusing a teenage boy in 2008 in his rural Texas parish is now accused of plotting the alleged victim's murder, authorities said. (AP Photo/Dallas County Sheriff's Department)

This Nov. 18, 2010 photo provided by the Dallas County Sheriff's Department shows John Fiala. Fiala, a former Roman Catholic priest charged with sexually abusing a teenage boy in 2008 in his rural Texas parish is now accused of plotting the alleged victim's murder, authorities said. (AP Photo/Dallas County Sheriff's Department)

The Abuse Puzzle

Open and transparent. That’s the wording of reforms within the Catholic Church promoting openness with the public about cases of sexual abuse committed by clergy. But a two-year Journal-World and 6News investigation into the Kansas Catholic Church shows that church officials continue to keep the public in the dark about some cases of abuse.

— A Roman Catholic priest who briefly served in Kansas has been arrested on charges that he solicited a hit man to kill a teenager who had accused him of sexual abuse.

Authorities said John Fiala first offered the job to a neighbor, who blew the whistle and helped police arrange a sting. They said Fiala got as far as negotiating a $5,000 price for the slaying before investigators moved in.

The 52-year-old clergyman was arrested Nov. 18 at his suburban Dallas home and jailed on $700,000 bond. In April, he was named in a lawsuit filed by the boy's family, who accused Fiala of molesting the youth, including twice forcing him to have sex at gunpoint.

Fiala was arrested on Sept. 3 in Lawrence by U.S. marshals on a warrant for sex crimes against children. He was taken into custody in the 800 block of East 11th Street and waived his right to fight extradition to Texas.

Fiala said he did not intend to elude authorities and that he thought the charges against him had been dropped.

“I want you to know that I wasn’t trying to hide,” John M. Fiala told a judge on Sept. 7. “I was open about where I was, and there wasn't any attempt on my part to hide and flee from justice, anything like that.”

The abuse allegedly took place in 2007 and 2008, when Fiala was a priest at the Sacred Heart of Mary Parish in the West Texas community of Rocksprings, a rural enclave known for sheep and goat herding.

The family's lawsuit also named the Archdiocese of San Antonio and Archbishop Jose Gomez, alleging that church leadership should have known Fiala was abusive.

The suit was filed just a month before Gomez was introduced as the new incoming leader of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. He is currently serving as an assistant to Cardinal Roger Mahony, who will retire next year. Gomez then automatically becomes archbishop.

When he learned of the murder-for-hire investigation, the boy "was terrified and rightly so," said San Antonio attorney Tom Rhodes, who represents the family. As far back as 2008, Fiala threatened the teen, and repeatedly brandished a pistol, Rhodes said.

Fiala "began saying, 'If you tell anyone, I'll hurt you. I'll hurt your family, your girlfriend,'" Rhodes said. "It was more than once he threatened him with a gun."

Fiala only recently rented a place to live in suburban Garland, where police say he initiated the attempted contract killing — even though his new home is more than 300 miles northeast of Rocksprings.

Rhodes said an anonymous informant who initially identified himself as a neighbor of Fiala contacted his office and said the priest had approached him about killing the accuser, who was 16 at the time and is now in his late teens. Rhodes urged the informant to contact the police, who then sent an undercover agent to meet with Fiala.

Rhodes said he had been told Fiala offered $5,000 to carry out the slaying. A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said he could not confirm the amount of money involved.

It was unclear how close Fiala might have come to putting any plan into motion or how he allegedly wanted the boy killed. A call to the Edwards County Sheriff's Office, which headed up the investigation, was not immediately returned.

Jail records list Fiala's attorney as Rex Gunter in Dallas, but he was in court Tuesday and did not return a call from The Associated Press. Fiala is charged with one count of solicitation to commit capital murder and two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

San Antonio Archdiocese spokesman Pat Rodgers said Fiala has been removed from the public ministry, meaning he cannot present himself as a priest.

Authorities removed him in October 2008, before the accusations of sexual assault emerged, because of his interference with the custodial relationship between the teen in Rocksprings and his grandmother — a case the sheriff's office investigated. Authorities have not disclosed the nature of Fiala's interference.

"We were shocked by the allegations and saddened by the story," Rodgers said. Since Fiala was removed from the public ministry, "we haven't contacted him, and haven't had any reason to contact him."

Rhodes said Fiala originally met the accuser in 2007 and was a frequent visitor at his grandparents' house, where the teen was living. He often came bearing gifts, including a cell phone and MP3 player, and eventually gave the boy cash to help buy a car.

Fiala used the pretext of private catechism lessons to be alone with the boy, Rhodes said, and in 2008 took the teen to a youth event in the town of San Angelo, Texas, during which he allegedly raped him in a motel room at gunpoint.

"He's a dangerous predator and has been since at least 1988," Rhodes said. "The church has known how dangerous this guy is for many, many years. They had full knowledge, we believe, and the documents seem to bear that out — that they knew what a bad person he was and what a danger he was to children."

LJWorld.com staff contributed to this story.

Comments

UNIKU 4 years, 9 months ago

Don't worry -- the Catholics will likely help this clown get off...again

oakfarm 4 years, 9 months ago

Shame on them if they do, but even more shame if the authorities let it happen. This is not a "Catholic" or "Catholic Church" problem. It is a personal criminal act and it is up to the police and courts to prosecute the perpetrator, not the Catholics, nor the Catholic Church.

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 9 months ago

Hope you feel the same about Islamic followers...

MarcoPogo 4 years, 9 months ago

Definitely wins "Headline of the Week".

Fatty_McButterpants 4 years, 9 months ago

I wish we could click a "like" tab, as is possible on Facebook, because I like the double meaning!

JudyJones 4 years, 9 months ago

The brave victim of the dangerous predator priest is to be commended for not giving up, and for reporting to police.

...and hopefully, if there are others who have been harmed by Fiala, they too will come forward and contact police. This child predator needs to be kept in jail forever.

Please know, that if you have been sexually abused by this priest or any clergy, you are not alone, and there is hope, help and healing.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511, snapjudy@gmail.com

Bob Forer 4 years, 9 months ago

thanks for making yourself available for other victims.

Haiku_Cuckoo 4 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, that Mother Teresa lady was such a troublemaker.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 9 months ago

here's a great article on why Mother Theresa should not be worshiped

http://www.slate.com/id/2090083/

booyalab 4 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, we should all put our faith in Obama. He is the one true way.

Fatty_McButterpants 4 years, 9 months ago

You have never seen a good Christian because you choose not to see. Everyday, we walk amongst good Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, etc., and, while many atrocities are committed "in the name of," such acts do not diminish the inherent goodness at its foundation.

Put more simply, do not blame the map because the navigator misread it.

Shane Garrett 4 years, 9 months ago

Rocksprings,"a rural enclave known for sheep and goat herding." I guess when one tires of that which one is doing, one moves to a higher calling.

blindrabbit 4 years, 9 months ago

Let the Pope beatify him, now that condoms are sanctified.

Bob Forer 4 years, 9 months ago

"Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers."

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1549.

According to Catholics principles, men are called to the Priesthood by god.

It boggles the mind that any intelligent human being would participate in an organized institution that believes scum bags like Fiala are chosen by an almighty being to dispense goodness amongst the people.

Wake up folks, this religious nonsense was promulgated by men long before they started burning people alive for being witches. This is the 21st century. What will it take to disabuse you of these nonsensical, medieval and primitive beliefs?

Andrea Hoag 4 years, 9 months ago

Wow, this headline alone made me feel like taking a nap. Phew! Lotta images to wade through on that one.

Richard Payton 4 years, 9 months ago

The reporter must of watched Zohan - to mention goat herding in this article. The Priest may have a goat friend in prison if found guilty.

whats_going_on 4 years, 9 months ago

This is creepy times 10 to the upteenmillionth degree.

Reuben Turner 4 years, 9 months ago

dirty dog. can church folks be trusted anymore?

Stuart Evans 4 years, 9 months ago

you know.. I think that the bulk of people who go to church and have a belief in god(s), do so with a kind heart. They want that goodness which has been promised to them, and they sacrifice so much to get a little bit of it. But there are a lot of people who use those people in the church, with the threat of hell and the promise of heaven, to get what they want, whether it be money, fame, power, or raping little boys at gunpoint. What I want from those people who are just along for the warm & fuzzy feeling, is to educate yourselves, and understand that the book(s) you hold dear, and really think about where they come from. It is the ignorance and the apathy that holds so many people down and empowers those few bad apples to control so many.

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