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  More Ex-Priest Molest Indictments
2 Named by S.F. Grand Jury Had Been Accused in Past Criminal or Civil Cases

By Jaxon Van Derbeken
San Francisco Chronicle
September 20, 2002

Two more former Roman Catholic priests have been indicted by a San Francisco grand jury on child molestation charges, authorities said Thursday.

The indictments name Salvatore Billante and Austin Peter Keegan, both of whom had been accused in past criminal or civil cases and had been removed from the church long ago -- as had a third defrocked priest, Patrick O'Shea, who was charged last Friday.

Billante, 62, was indicted Thursday on 181 counts stemming from accusations by a single alleged victim, a man who attended Corpus Christi School in the Outer Mission District as a boy. He said Billante, who taught at the school, had molested him on numerous occasions from 1972 to 1978, prosecutors said.

Billante was arrested at his home in Redwood City and was being held on $10 million bail.

Known as "Brother Sal," Billante was a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco religious order. He was a youth minister at Corpus Christi Church for 25 years.

In 1989, he pleaded guilty to one count of lewd and lascivious acts with a boy under the age of 14 and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Prosecutors said the abuse had happened at the order's Camp Salesian in Lake County.

In a plea bargain in that case, San Francisco prosecutors dismissed a second count of similar acts with another boy. Billante was released in 1993 on parole.

Billante's latest accuser contacted authorities in May, said district attorney's spokesman Mark MacNamara. District Attorney Terence Hallinan had asked for and received records from the San Francisco Archdiocese on sexual-abuse accusations dating back as far as 75 years.

Those documents included allegations against Keegan, a former priest who church records suggest may have molested as many as 80 children locally over the course of three decades, authorities said.

Keegan was indicted Sept. 12 on 40 counts stemming from the alleged abuse of three people over a 28-year span ending in 1992. He is wanted on a $5 million warrant and is believed to be in Mexico, authorities said.

In 1996, the church paid $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit that 15 men had filed against Keegan, O'Shea, a third priest and their superiors for alleged molestations. Keegan worked at several churches in San Francisco in the 1960s and '70s and left for the Santa Rosa Diocese in 1975.

Terence McAteer, son of a former state senator and now superintendent of schools in Nevada County, said in an interview in 1994 that Keegan had molested him at age 10 at the Disneyland Hotel and that he had complained to the San Francisco Archdiocese in 1977. On Thursday, the 45-year-old McAteer said he was heartened by the news of the indictment.

"(When) I came forward," he said, "I made note that the church hadn't told the truth when they told me they had no knowledge" about other accusations against Keegan.

"I knew that they were aware that in 1977 that I had been brutally molested by Peter Keegan," McAteer said. "What they did with that, thereafter, what their knowledge is, I don't know."

McAteer would not comment on whether he was one of the alleged victims who had testified before the San Francisco grand jury.

"I would say that the most important thing is that justice prevails in issues like this," McAteer said.

 
 

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