|Priest's Rights Not Violated, Prosecutors Say
By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
August 8, 2007
Prosecutors argue that the Rev. Gary E. Underwood's due-process rights were not violated by a 22-year time gap before he was charged with child molestation.
Underwood, who is accused of molesting three teenage boys under the age of 15 during the mid-1980s, has asked that the criminal case be dismissed because of the long delay in charging him.
But prosecutor Kathleen Mayer filed a court motion last week in which she says the time gap does not disadvantage the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson priest.
She also notes that the prosecution did not find out about the first allegation until June 2006, when the Pima County Attorney's Office received a report from the diocese.
Underwood "has neither shown that the delay was intentional for the purpose of harassing him or gaining tactical advantage nor that the delay has prejudiced him," Mayer wrote.
Underwood, 53, is facing charges of child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor in connection with reports that he abused boys while working as a priest at St. Odilia's Catholic Church on Tucson's Northwest Side. His next court date is set for Sept. 24.
Underwood has not worked in the local diocese since 1987. He is currently suspended from the priesthood and working an administrative job at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La., where he had previously been a chaplain.
His attorney, Dan Cooper, had argued that the time delay violated his client's "right to due process and fundamental fairness." He also says Underwood is innocent.
Underwood, who was ordained in the local diocese, served at St. Odilia's from 1983 to 1986, and at St. Anthony's in Casa Grande in 1987. He was initially arraigned Nov. 17 following a nearly six-month investigation into accusations that he sexually abused two boys. The second indictment against him was dated April 24.
Mayer says Underwood preyed on adolescent boys connected to the Catholic Church, providing them with pornography and alcohol prior to making sexual overtures toward them, and "often used a Jacuzzi in these crimes."
In other cases, three priests who once worked in the diocese have been sent to prison for sexual abuse. Also, the Pima County Attorney's Office recently confirmed it is conducting a criminal investigation into another priest who once worked in the diocese. The Rev. Kevin Barmasse has been accused in civil actions of molesting male members of a Catholic youth group during the 1980s.
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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