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  Defrocked Cleric a Fugitive in Molestation Case
Priest Didn't Surrender As Pledged

By Jaxon Van Derbeken
San Francisco Chronicle
April 15, 2000

A defrocked Roman Catholic priest who allegedly molested boys over a 16-year period and embezzled $250,000 from the faithful in San Francisco was being hunted as a fugitive last night after he did not surrender on the sexual abuse charges, police said.

Former Msgr. Patrick J. O'Shea of San Francisco was indicted Thursday on 224 counts of child molestation, authorities said. It was the fourth time he has been charged in the case, originally filed in 1996 and the subject of a battle over its legality ever since.

The 66-year-old O'Shea was to have turned himself in yesterday morning, police spokesman Sherman Ackerson said. When O'Shea did not show up at the Hall of Justice as planned, police obtained a $5 million warrant for his arrest.

Authorities around the state were hunting for O'Shea last night. Sources said that O'Shea has property near Redding and that the FBI has been called in to assist the investigation, in case the former priest has fled California.

"We expect to have him in custody over the weekend," Ackerson said.

O'Shea was to have been accompanied to the Hall of Justice by his criminal defense attorney, James Collins, Ackerson said. Collins refused to comment late yesterday.

The indictment returned this week is based on the accusations of at least nine men who came forward years after O'Shea allegedly molested them.

The original counts against O'Shea dated from between 1964 and 1980 and included oral copulation, mutual masturbation and sodomy. The alleged incidents took place at Lake Berryessa and Lake Tahoe.

Four years ago, the San Francisco Archdiocese paid a total of $2.5 million to 15 men who said they had been molested as boys by O'Shea and two other Bay Area priests.

O'Shea's attorneys have long challenged the 1994 state law under which the former priest was charged, in which adult victims could come forward and lodge accusations about events that occurred in their childhood.

The law was challenged in court as vague and unconstitutional, and the case against O'Shea was thrown out in 1995.

The law was revised by state lawmakers in 1997 to specifically include old cases that otherwise could not be filed because of the statute of limitations.

In August of last year, a divided California Supreme Court ruled that suspected child molesters can be prosecuted years -- even decades -- after the alleged crime, even if the statute of limitations has passed. The ruling allowed prosecutors to lodge new charges against O'Shea.

O'Shea was ordained in 1958. He was pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Church in San Francisco from 1978 until 1990, when he became pastor at St. Cecilia Church.

He was director of the San Francisco Society of the Propagation of the Faith, which supports the church's missionary work, and once headed an outreach program to the gay community.

O'Shea was permanently stripped of clerical duties in 1995 after he was first accused of child molestation.

The sexual abuse case is not the only legal problem for O'Shea. Last fall, the archdiocese filed a lawsuit accusing O'Shea of embezzling more than $250,000 donated by nuns and parishioners during his 16- year tenure at the two San Francisco churches.

Prosecutors had already filed criminal charges related to the lost funds, accusing O'Shea of grand theft and filing falsified tax returns. The charges allege that he embezzled church funds to finance a vacation home in the upscale Southern California community of Indian Springs. That case is still pending.

 
 

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