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  S.F. Ex-Priest Indicted in Abuse Case Caught in Mexico
He Faces 25 Counts of Molestation, Sodomy Involving 2 Children in the Late 1960s

By Ryan Kim
San Francisco Chronicle
March 2, 2003

A former San Francisco priest who fled following his indictment last year on charges that he molested two children more than 30 years ago was arrested Saturday in Mexico, the FBI said.

FBI agents, joined by the U.S. attorney's office in Northern California and authorities from San Diego and Mexico, arrested Austin Peter Keegan, 67, in the resort town of Puerto Vallarta. He is awaiting extradition to San Francisco, where he faces 25 counts of child molestation and sodomy involving two children in the late 1960s, said LaRae Quy, an FBI spokeswoman in San Francisco.

"We're very pleased we can bring resolution to this particular indictment and bring him back here for trial," Quy said. "The FBI continues to aggressively pursue people who have abused children. It remains a priority for the FBI."

Keegan, who has in the past been accused in a civil suit of molesting another boy, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of all charges.

Keegan worked at several churches in San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s before joining the Santa Rosa Diocese in 1975. Authorities have said he may have molested as many as 80 children before the church placed him on inactive duty about a decade ago.

"Austin Keegan is a serial child molester," said Elliot Beckelman, a San Francisco assistant district attorney. "He's a very bad one. It's not just seduction and manipulation, he used force."

A San Francisco grand jury indicted Keegan on Sept. 12, 2002, in connection with the alleged abuse of two boys. His bail was set at $5 million. Following his indictment, Quy said, Keegan fled to Tijuana from his home in the San Diego County town of Oceanside.

"When the indictment came down, we went to arrest him, and he was gone," said Quy.

Authorities obtained a federal arrest warrant on Sept. 27, 2002. They recently tracked Keegan to Puerto Vallarta. His return to San Francisco is expected in a "fairly timely manner," said Quy.

The first alleged victim, Terence McAteer, son of a former state senator, claims he was assaulted in 1967 at the Disneyland Hotel. The second victim also was abused during the late 1960s, Beckelman said.

McAteer, now superintendent of schools in Nevada County, hailed Keegan's arrest.

"I'm very relieved," said McAteer, who was 10 years old at the time of the alleged abuse. "He needs to stand trial for hurting many, many boys in San Francisco, beginning with myself."

In 1996, the Catholic diocese in San Francisco and Santa Rosa settled a molestation lawsuit filed by 15 men against Keegan, Monsignor Patrick O'Shea and the Rev. Gary Timmons. The men said they were abused by the three priests as children between the late 1960s and early 1980s.

The men received $2.5 million under the settlement. Timmons was sentenced later that year to an eight-year prison term after pleading guilty to felony and misdemeanor molestation charges.

O'Shea avoided a similar fate in March 2002 after a judge threw out a 224-count felony complaint against him saying the cases were too old to prosecute.

He was indicted in September for allegedly abusing a former altar boy. O'Shea also has been charged with embezzling at least $250,000 from the church and spending it on a home in Indian Wells, near Palm Springs.

 
 

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