Houston - a South Texas Priest Who Left for Spain

Associated Press, carried in San Antonio Express-News (Texas)
May 22, 1996

HOUSTON - A South Texas priest who left for Spain amid allegations of sexual assault says he's innocent, according to a report broadcast Tuesday.

"False accusations. Completely false accusations," the Rev. Jesus Hernando Garcia, told Houston television station KPRC in the priest's first interview since leaving his Mathis parish, about 30 miles northwest of Corpus Christi, a year ago.

Garcia is wanted on charges of sexual assault and indecency with a child in connection with a 1992 incident involving a 15-year-old boy, according to court records.

A KPRC news team traveled to the village of Camarma de Esteruelas and confronted Garcia about his reasons for departing the United States.

"At the present time, I cannot return because I have duties here," Garcia said, adding that he had approval to leave from both the San Patricio County district attorney and the Most Rev. Rene H. Gracida, bishop of the Diocese of Corpus Christi.

Neither Garcia nor District Attorney Tom Bridges immediately returned reporters' phone calls Tuesday for comment.

The diocese faces a civil lawsuit in Harris County. The suit was filed by the family of the teen-aged boy mentioned in the criminal indictment and by two other men.

Garcia is accused of molesting the three in separate attacks between 1991 and 1994. The lawsuit names Garcia, the Diocese of Corpus Christi, the Catholic Church and Gracida as defendants.

The diocese has issued a statement saying the lawsuit has no merit.

Garcia told KPRC he's the one being victimized.

"All these families want is to get easy money," Garcia said. "Have you thought of all the damage these people have done to me? Just because they want to get a lot of money in an easy way."

The district attorney originally filed a federal extradition warrant last year, but withdrew it because of the some $7,000 cost. Attorneys for the families say they would gladly pay the extradition cost if the authorities would finally try to return the priest to face the suit and the criminal charges.


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