Former Fargo Priest Ordered Extradited from Philippines
By Stephen J. Lee
Grand Forks Herald
April 3, 2012
Sayasaya charged with felony sex abuse of two minors in 1997 According to news sources in the Philippines, an appeals court in Manila on Tuesday approved the extradition of Fernando Sayasaya, a former priest in the Catholic Diocese of Fargo, to stand trial in a Fargo court on decade-old felony sex charges involving two minor boys.
According to news sources in the Philippines, an appeals court in Manila on Tuesday approved the extradition of Fernando Sayasaya, a former priest in the Catholic Diocese of Fargo, to stand trial in a Fargo court on decade-old felony sex charges involving two minor boys.
The Manila court ruled that the affidavit of West Fargo Police Detective Greg Warren detailing charges from two brothers against Sayasaya was credible and constituted probable cause, according to news reports.
Fernando Sayasaya, who was defrocked several years ago at the urging of Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, was ordained in the diocese in 1995 by Bishop James Sullivan. He served at St. Mary's Cathedral in downtown Fargo and at Blessed Sacrament in West Fargo.
Sayasaya was removed of his parish duties in 1998, after two brothers accused him of sexually assaulting them in 1997.
The priest was sent to the Blue Cloud Abbey in South Dakota by Fargo church officials; later he returned to his home country, the Philippines.
Sayasaya's case was highlighted by the Dallas Morning News in 2004 as an example of how Catholic church officials help priests accused of sexual abuse evade justice by fleeing to foreign countries.
It also has been echoed recently by the arrest last month of a Catholic priest in India on charges of sexually assaulting a girl in a Greenbush, Minn., parish when she was 14 and 15. Roseau County Attorney Karen Foss says she is waiting for information from the Justice Department about the extradition of the Rev. Joseph Jeyapaul.
According to Warren, the West Fargo Police detective who pursued Sayasaya for several years, the priest admitted to sexually abusing minors in Fargo, on a trip with young people to Canada, in Rome and while taking a young person on a trip to the Philippines.
In 2002, Aquila replaced Sullivan, who died in 2006.
In a statement Tuesday in response to the Herald's request, Fargo diocese spokeswoman Tanya Watterud said Aquila, "upon hearing the news" of Sayasaya being ordered to be returned to the United States, "voiced his confidence in the fairness of the criminal justice system in Fargo.
"When allegations of wrongful conduct surfaced, Sayasaya was removed from his priestly assignments in the diocese of Fargo in August 1998," Watterud said, adding that Aquila asked Rome to dismiss Sayasaya from the priesthood.
In 2002, Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick charged Sayasaya, in abstention, with two counts of gross sexual imposition, each a Class B felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Burdick said Tuesday that in 2005 he provided the Justice Department with documentation it requested to aid the extradition process. Otherwise he has left the extradition process to the department.
Sayasaya, in fact, is the only case of foreign extradition he's been involved in since becoming state's attorney in 1999, Burdick said.