News in Brief from the San Joaquin Valley

San Francisco Chronicle
December 8, 2006

Fresno, Calif. (AP) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno rejected a former alter boy's offer to settle a lawsuit for $1 on the condition that the priest who allegedly molested him resign.

Juan Rocha, 31, a decorated Army sergeant first class, filed a civil lawsuit against the diocese and Father Eric Swearingen. He alleges that the priest sexually abused him from ages 12 to 15 when he was an alter boy in churches in Bakersfield and Fresno.

The priest said he let Rocha live in the two church rectories with him temporarily so the boy could get away from a troubled home, but denied molesting him.

Authorities in Fresno and Kern counties investigated Rocha's allegations, but no criminal charges were ever filed against Swearingen, the diocese said.

The Fresno diocese has settled two other sex abuse cases for $875,000 and $650,000. Rocha's $1 offer during the first day of jury deliberations Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court supported his claim that "this case was never about money," said his lawyer Larry Drivon.


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