Hanford Priest Denies Rape Charges

By Cindy Carcamo
Fresno Bee
June 21, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest accused of raping a 16-year-old girl who worked at his church appeared Thursday in Kings County Superior Court, where his jury trial date was set for Aug. 19.

The Rev. Miguel Flores, a priest at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Hanford, pleaded not guilty in his arraignment Thursday to raping the teen-ager. Prosecutor Anna Ferguson said Flores has refused a plea deal with prosecutors.

Flores' attorney, Rick Conway, said their stance hasn't wavered.

"We haven't changed from Day One," Conway said. "We said previously that Father Miguel denies the allegations brought against him. We look forward to the opportunity to have a full hearing of the facts."

Flores, 34, is charged with three counts of forcible rape, three counts of statutory rape, dissuading a witness and criminal threat charges. If convicted of all charges, the priest could spend up to 26 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Flores raped the girl in January at the St. Paul Church in Tranquillity, where he worked previously, and twice more in February at the Hanford church.

The teen-age girl was not identified because of her age and the nature of the charge. The girl, prosecutors said, started work Jan. 21 as Flores' assistant at the Tranquillity church and followed him to work at the Hanford church.

During a court hearing earlier this month, Hanford police investigator Bruce Blodgett told the court that the girl told him in an interview that Flores raped her Feb. 16 in a separate building, near the main sanctuary in Hanford.

He said the girl told him Flores threatened her, saying she would regret it if she told anybody what had happened.

Fear prevented the girl from telling anyone about the alleged rapes, Blodgett said.

Conway questioned the girl's credibility. He noted she failed to tell investigators during the first interview about two other alleged rapes -- one at the Tranquillity church Jan. 26 and another at the Hanford church Feb. 9.

Conway also wondered why the girl, if she had been raped, would follow Flores to the Hanford church after his transfer.

Prosecutors assert that the girl was blackmailed into staying with Flores.

Blodgett said the girl told him she and Flores took a trip Feb. 18 to Mission San Miguel near Paso Robles: "He had told her that she needed to swear to God to not tell what happened between the two of them," Blodgett testified. "If she didn't, bad things could happen to her and her younger sisters."


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