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  Accuser Defends Account
Irving: Ex-Priest's Lawyer Doubts Recalled Details of Drunken State

By Robert Tharp
Dallas Morning News
June 24, 2005

Attorneys for former priest John Salazar grilled a 20-year-old Amarillo man Friday over charges that he sexually assaulted him in September 2003 while he was too intoxicated to resist.

Beau Villegas spent more than two hours on the witness stand Friday, mostly under cross-examination. Attorney Leigh Demasi challenged Mr. Villegas' account of what happened inside an Irving hotel after a wedding party the two men attended.

Ms. Demasi noted that the Amarillo College student had written that he had been too inebriated to recall details of what happened in his earliest statements about the attack. But in later accounts, as well as his testimony Thursday, he described the events in great detail, she said.

Mr. Villegas said that he was embarrassed and didn't want to remember all of the details. He said he drank at least 10 beers and three mixed drinks and had vomited several times the night in question but said he had a high tolerance for alcohol.

Ms. Demasi also questioned why Mr. Villegas entered Mr. Salazar's hotel room despite his earlier testimony that he had been "appalled" that weekend with what he thought were sexual advances from Mr. Salazar.

Mr. Villegas said he wanted to trust Mr. Salazar because he was the family priest.

Under questioning by prosecutors, Mr. Villegas said the attack shook his religious faith. "I have a hard time trusting anybody now," he said.

In other testimony Friday, Mr. Villegas' mother and grandmother described the close relationship that the Villegas family had with Mr. Salazar, who at the time was the priest of the Church of the Holy Spirit in the small West Texas town of Tulia where they lived.

Mr. Salazar was a regular guest in the household, the women said. Even after he was removed from public ministry in advance of the Catholic bishops' adoption of a zero-tolerance policy regarding priests who commit sex offenses, family members continued to call him Father John and considered him a priest.

Prosecutors charge that Mr. Salazar committed sexual assault by using his influence as a clergyman over Mr. Villegas or by taking advantage of Mr. Villegas' drunken state to force himself on him.

At the time of the incident, Mr. Salazar had been convicted of sexually assaulting two minors in Los Angeles and was sentenced to six years in prison in 1987. Because he is a convicted sex offender, Mr. Salazar could be sentenced to up to life in prison if convicted on this charge

 
 

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