Trial Set for Former Tulia Priest in Child Sex Case
By Shanna Sissom
My Plain View
April 20, 2013
TULIA — A trial date has been set for the former Tulia priest accused of child molestation while he served at the Church of the Holy Spirit.
The Rev. John Anthony Salazar was sent to Tulia in 1991 as a convicted child molester who had completed a treatment program for pedophile priests and been banned for life from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
He would spend over a decade in Tulia, and eventually face more allegations of child sexual abuse until his departure in May 2002 when he was removed from ministry. That was a month before the Roman Catholic bishops in America adopted a charter aimed at protecting children from pedophile priests.
Salazar, 57, is scheduled to stand trial on a charge of indecency with a child by sexual contact in Swisher County’s 64th Judicial District Court, presided over by Judge Robert Kinkaid Jr., on Aug. 29, 2013, according to court records. The victim in this case was 12 years old when the alleged abuse began in 1997, according to information in the clerk’s office file.
Swisher County prosecutor Mike Criswell declined to comment on the pending case, and defense attorney Rodrique Hobson Jr. of Lubbock didn’t return a phone call to the Herald.
But the Diocese of Amarillo, of which the Tulia church is a part, issued a statement regarding Salazar this past week.
“A serious mistake was made in bringing John Salazar to the Diocese of Amarillo for ministry,” Bishop Patrick Zurek wrote. “He was removed from ministry in May 2002 and a petition for laicization (removal from the clergy) was granted in December 2004.
After the petition of laicization was granted, it was published in The West Texas Catholic that he had been laicized for sexual misconduct with youth.”
In June 2002, the Roman Catholic Church in America pledged to protect children from sexually abusive priests.
“Since the Charter for the Protection of Young People, issued in June 2002, the Diocese of Amarillo can affirm that no priest with a credible allegation of sexual misconduct with a youth is functioning as a priest in this Diocese,” Zurek said in a statement posted on the diocese website.
Prior to being sent to Tulia, Salazar pleaded guilty in 1987 to one count of oral copulation and one count of lewd or lascivious acts with a child for molesting two altar boys, ages 13 and 14. He served three years of a six-year prison term before being sent in 1990 to a residential program in New Mexico that treated pedophile priests, according to published reports.
The priest was also required to register as a sex offender.
It was one year later when the Diocese of Amarillo hired Salazar for ministry at the Church of the Holy Spirit.
Hobson, the priest’s defense attorney in Lubbock, has filed multiple motions in the Swisher County Court, in part seeking to keep jurors — even post-verdict — from knowing about Salazar’s past.
A statement in one of the motions reads: “The defendant in this case has prior arrests and/or a criminal conviction record. There is other evidence that would be characterized as prior “bad acts,” is stated among them.”