Rocha Trial Set to Go to the Jury

By DeAnna McQueen
ABC 30 [Fresno CA]
December 6, 2006

The child sexual abuse trial against a Fresno catholic priest is set to go to the jury. Juan Rocha's attorney isn't giving a figure. But, says his client is deserving of full, fair and adequate compensation.

Bishop John Steinbock believes Father Eric Swearingen is innocent and showed his support by attending closing arguments. He says, "I am not going to make any comment until after the verdict comes out."

Army SSG Juan Rocha claims Swearingen molested him when he was an altar boy, over a period of three years. Rocha says it happened while he stayed with the priest at two different rectories; one in Bakersfield and in Fresno at Saint Alphonsus Church. Rocha says the case didn't have to go to trial.

*Plaintiff Juan Rocha says, "I'm just sad. When I reached out to the church, they just turned away."

Swearingen, who's now a priest at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in north Fresno , testified he never molested Rocha. In closing arguments, Swearingen's attorney, Carey Johnson, told jurors the biggest issue in the case is Rocha's credibility and says rewarding Rocha money will hurt the entire Diocese.

Swearingen's attorney says, "It's more than money that's at stake in my view."

Rocha's attorney says Swearingen shouldn't have allowed Rocha to spend the night at the rectories. He claims the now 31 year old suffered emotional distress from the alleged abuse.

Larry Drivon, Rocha's Attorney, says, "Nobody heard me ask the jury for millions of dollars or retribution or for anything. What SSG Rocha and his family wanted was his day in court and I think they got their day in court."

Swearingen was never charged criminally, and so far, Rocha is the only person to come forward with the allegations. Rocha says he's glad he spoke out, but will be glad when the trial is over. He says, "I'd rather be in Baghdad or anywhere else than to be here today."

The jury is set to begin deliberating the case tomorrow morning.


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