|Salinas Catholic Priest Accused of Molestation
By Sunita Vijayan
April 17, 2009
A Roman Catholic priest in Salinas has been suspended of his church duties as Salinas police investigate allegations he had sexual contact with a teenage boy.
The Rev. Antonio Cortes, pastor of St. Mary of the Nativity Catholic Church, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of unlawful sexual behavior with a minor and providing alcohol to a minor. Police said Cortes was arrested at the church's office, which is opposite the actual church, 1747 Second Ave.
This afternoon, Cortes remained in Monterey County Jail with bail set at $750,000.
He faces 20 counts of selling liquor to a minor, one count of sodomy with a person under the age of 18 and two counts of child molestation. Cortes' arraignment is expected to occur next week.
Warren Hoy, spokesman for the Diocese of Monterey, said church officials were notified of the arrest late Thursday afternoon and are cooperating fully with investigators.
Cortes has been placed on paid administrative leave. His suspension, Hoy said, means Cortes will not be conducting any parish duties until the investigation and criminal proceedings are completed. If Cortes makes bail, he said, he will be moved out of the parish to another location in Monterey County.
Hoy said Cortes has been the pastor at St. Mary's since June 2007 and has been with the diocese for about 12 years.
The Rev. Jose Alberto Vazquez, the diocese's director of vocations, will be running St. Mary's parish as Cortes undergoes court proceedings.
At this weekend's Mass at St. Mary's, Hoy said, a statement by Bishop Richard J. Garcia will be read to parishioners.
Salinas police Cmdr. Dino Bardoni said limited details about the incident are available because the investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information concerning the investigation is encouraged to contact Detectives Lalo Villegas 831-758-7348 or Luis Bravo 831-758-7124 or the Salinas Police Department Anonymous Crime Tip Line at 831-775-4222 or WE-TIP at 1-800-78-CRIME.
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