Priest Testifies about Alleged Overnight Stays

KGPE [Fresno CA]
December 5, 2006

Father Eric Swearingen took the stand Tuesday for the second time in Juan Rocha's civil lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno.

Swearingen testified that Rocha stayed overnight with him in church rectories three times in the late 1980's and early 1990's, but he denied ever molesting the boy. The incidents took place in Bakersfield, where Swearingen was a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, and later in Fresno at St. Alphonsus Church.

Although the church had rules against guests in the rectory, Swearingen said he wasn't aware of them and was just trying to help Rocha, who came from a troubled family.

Rocha is suing the Diocese for damages because of the alleged sexual abuse he says he endured. If the jury finds the Diocese is responsible, Rocha could be awarded financial damages.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin on Wednesday at 9:00 a.m.

Two other sex abuse lawsuits against the Diocese were settled out of court earlier this year. The accusers in those cases received $650,000 and $875,000. Neither case involved Father Swearingen.


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