Long Beach Priest Denies Sexual Assault Charges
By Tracy Manzer
Contra Costa Times
August 8, 2012
|Luis Jose Cuevas |
A Catholic priest once assigned to a North Long Beach church who now faces sexual assault charges appeared briefly in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing setting.
The Rev. Luis Jose Cuevas, the former parish priest at St. Athanasius Catholic Church, 5390 Linden Ave., is no longer in custody after his release on $260,000 bond on July 27.
The 67-year-old is scheduled to return to the Long Beach Superior Court on Sept. 11, when a preliminary hearing is scheduled to be set, according to court staff.
Cuevas has pleaded not guilty to nine counts of sexual assault following accusations from three alleged victims. His attorney, George Bird, has repeatedly denied the allegations against his client, noting the massive community support for the defendant, demonstrated by nearly 100 members of the church where he once served attending his arraignment.
The case came to light in April, police said, when two women accused Cuevas of sexual battery, initially reporting the incidents to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles before filing a police report. When an announcement was made at St. Athanasius that Cuevas was being investigated and other possible victims were urged to come forward, the 17-year-old girl contacted authorities and accused the priest of repeated incidents of inappropriate touching dating back to when she was 14, police and prosecutors said.
A total of nine counts were filed: Eight misdemeanor sexual battery counts and one felony count of lewd acts on a minor under the age of 16. The prosecutor noted there are at least 16 additional allegations of past sexual abuse that couldn't be filed due to the statute of limitations.
Bird said the allegations listed in the criminal complaint involved Cuevas allegedly touching a breast over clothing with both women. He added that the allegations made by the teen girl were similar.
The defense attorney denied all the claims and said the contact was accidental and made as the priest hugged the alleged victims.
"He has served his community his entire life, he has no prior allegations of any kind," the defense lawyer said.
After working with authorities and reviewing the allegations, the Archdiocese relieved Cuevas of all duties last month and, in a statement read to parishioners, said the accusations appeared "credible."
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