Priest's Molest Case Waits for a Trial Date
Judge Decides Jose Superiaso Can Be Prosecuted

By Amy Yarbrough
San Mateo [County CA]
August 24, 2004

REDWOOD CITY -- After months of legal wrangling, a former Daly City priest will stand trial for the alleged molestation of a 12-year-old girl. The question now is: When? San Mateo County Superior Court Judge James Ellis ruled Monday that time has not run out to prosecute Jose Superiaso, 50. His trial was scheduled to begin following Ellis' ruling, but all the courtrooms were booked and it's unclear when one will be available.

A former priest at St. Andrew's Church in Daly City, Superiaso faces 24 counts of child molestation stemming from incidents alleged to have taken place between July 1994 and November 1995. He has pleaded innocent to the charges.

Superiaso was arrested in June 2003 after his accuser, now in her 20s, came forward and helped authorities lure him to Daly City from Santa Fe, N.M., where he had been working as a priest on an Indian reservation.

In May, Superiaso's attorney, Ray Buenaventura, filed paperwork to have the charges against his client dismissed, citing a U.S. Supreme Court case banning the retroactive prosecution of certain child molestation cases.

But Ellis relied instead on an earlier 1994 law, which gives prosecutors a year after a victim comes forward, to file charges in child molestation cases in which the six-year statute of limitations has lapsed.

"The court feels it must follow the line of court of appeal's decisions," Ellis said in making his ruling.

Outside the courtroom Monday, Deputy District Attorney Sharon Henry said she was ready to begin opening statements, but that the delays in the case weren't that unusual.

"When there are very serious charges and substantial incarceration it's not uncommon for a case to be delayed," Henry said. "But both parties have had ample time."

San Mateo resident George Hubbard rode the bus to Redwood City on Monday to support Superiaso, who stood calmly in court dressed in a red jail uniform and thick glasses, his hair in a low-slung ponytail.

Hubbard, who met the priest 18 years ago, has attended most of Superiaso's court hearings and said he had been praying that charges against his friend would be dropped.

"I read about his case in the paper and it was hard to believe," said Hubbard, who has been visiting Superiaso in jail. "He is good with young people and plays music for them with the guitar. He's very friendly; he gives a good Mass and a good Bible study."

During the hearing, Hubbard clutched a brown pocket Bible in which he'd outlined a psalm he hoped to share with Superiaso as well as a book the priest wrote while in jail.

The paperback called, "My Sabbatical with God," is peppered with quotes from theologians, Superiaso's accounts of his work in New Mexico and his thoughts about his time in jail. In it, Superiaso says little about the criminal case against him, which he refers to as an unexpected "sabbatical."

"At Maguire, physical comforts and other concerns are the little things," Superiaso wrote. "Actually, I find myself sleeping better, exercising better, eating better and, most important of all, praying better."

In addition to his time at St. Andrews between 1995 and 1997, Superiaso served as a pastor at Our Lady of the Pillar Church in Half Moon Bay for three months in 1997 and was named associate pastor of Our Lady of the Im Superiaso returns to court today, when a judge will be assigned to the case.

Staff writer Amy Yarbrough can be reached at (650) 348-4339 or by e-mail at .


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.