|Fushek Pleads Guilty to Single Misdemeanor
By Jim Walsh
The Arizona Republic
April 16, 2010
Defrocked Catholic Monsignor Dale Fushek pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of misdemeanor assault, ending five years of prosecution on charges of inappropriate sexual behavior involving teens.
Fushek was sentenced to 364 days of probation and fined $250 plus a 37 percent surcharge by San Tan Justice of the Peace Sam Goodman.
The sentencing was part of a plea deal that allows Fushek to avoid five separate trials, the first of which was scheduled to begin April 30.
"I feel a tremendous weight gone. I feel I can move on with my life," Fushek told The Republic on Thursday. "I feel a brightness I haven't felt for a long time."
Fushek, the former second-in-command of the Phoenix Diocese, was accused of indecent exposure, assault and five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in connection with several incidents involving five male teenagers.
The teens complained that Fushek had asked them intimate details of their sex lives and that he had gotten into a hot tub while naked with one of them.
All of the allegations were charged as misdemeanors and there were no allegations of felony sex acts.
The assault charge involved the "flicking" of a young man's genitals, but prosecutors dropped an allegation of sexual motivation, meaning Fushek will not be required to register as a sex offender.
Fushek said the incident he pled guilty to involved a pickup basketball game, and that he doesn't remember the details. A court document said the incident involved "bird-flicking," where the boys were touching each other's genitals over their clothes and that Fushek joined in the activity.
He told Goodman in court that he was trying to be "one of the guys" and now realizes that that wasn't possible.
"There was no motive other than to help young people," Fushek said.
However, the only victim who showed up to Thursday's hearing disputed that.
"Boys can be boys, but when you play with a boy's genitals as an adult, that's wrong," Carl Mawhinney said in an interview after the hearing.
However, he said he accepted the outcome.
"This is better than nothing. I'm OK with that," said Mawhinney, who was not the teen involved in the flicking incident. "It's not about being vengeful. It's about seeking justice."
Earlier in his career, Fushek gained nationwide acclaim as founder of an innovative outreach program he founded at St. Timothy Catholic Community in Mesa called Life Teen. The organization formed chapters across the nation and in several foreign countries.
After the allegations, Fushek was suspended by the diocese. He was later excommunicated for continuing to hold religious services despite an order from Bishop Thomas Olmsted to refrain from public ministry.
In January, the Vatican notified Olmsted that Fushek had been "laicized," or removed from the priesthood, as a penalty for acts of sexual abuse.
Thomas Hoidal, Fushek's attorney, dismissed the incident as horseplay.
While prosecutor Barbara Marshall said the incident was inherently sexual in nature, Hoidal emphasized that Fushek was not convicted of a sex crime.
Marshall said however that Fushek admitted "inappropriate conduct" with a member of his former parish at St. Timothy.
Marshall's case against Fushek was crippled when a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled Fushek was entitled to the separate jury trials and the Arizona Supreme Court backed his decision.
Those rulings made it difficult for Marshall to prove her argument that Fushek had engaged in a pattern of behavior to use his status to abuse teenage boys.
The plea deal brought an anticlimactic end to a case filed in 2005 by former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, after his predecessor, Rick Romley, had rejected it.
Romley had prosecuted a series of priests on felony sex charges and hammered out an agreement requiring the Diocese of Phoenix to report all allegations to police. He is among the candidates for appointment to replace Thomas.
"I had serious concerns about the strength of the case," Romley said Thursday.
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