Retired Rancho Priest Won't Be Charged
DA Says Evidence of Molest Insufficient
Daily Bulletin [Inland Valley CA]
April 18, 2003
San Bernardino -- Prosecutors will not file criminal charges against a retired Rancho Cucamonga priest accused of molesting two teen-agers in the 1970s, district attorney's officials said Friday.
There is not enough evidence to warrant charges against the Rev. Peter Covas, who retired from the Diocese of San Bernardino last year after allegations were reported to authorities by church officials, said Deputy District Attorney Steve Malone.
Covas' name was one of 20 turned over to police by the diocese in March 2002 after a voluntary review of internal files.
A purported victim reported to church officials that Covas began molesting him in 1975 when he was 14, and that it continued until he was 25, Malone said.
Since his initial report, the alleged victim sent four letters to the diocese recanting the molestation accusations, indicating that his relationship with Covas was not sexual, Malone said.
"In these letters he wrote that nothing sexual happened, that he was just a good friend," Malone said.
While Covas, 72, was under investigation, the alleged victim, now 42, was arrested and charged with taking checks from an elderly woman and double billing her for gardening services, Malone said.
The charges combined with the letters further lessened the man's credibility as a witness who could be believed at trial, Malone said.
When Malone called the man to tell him he was not going to file charges against Covas, the man was upset and offered up the name of another boy he said was also molested by Covas.
The man told Malone the second alleged victim had joined him and Covas in a sexual relationship when the other boy was 16.
Malone said he contacted the second purported victim, now 43, but found that the man was serving time in state prison for robbery and also had a prior conviction for check fraud.
Covas, who worked in the diocese for 44 years, retired last year after the investigation was launched.
He last worked as a parish pastor at St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church in Rancho Cucamonga for 10 years. Before that, Covas served as pastor at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral and Holy Rosary Academy in San Bernardino from 1984 to 1990.
Diocese spokesman the Rev. Howard Lincoln declined to comment.
"We will have no comment until the district attorney contacts us," Lincoln said.
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