Fushek Case Heads to Court of Appeals

By Jim Walsh
Arizona Republic [Arizona]
April 11, 2007

After an eight-month standstill, the case against a former Mesa priest headed to the Arizona Court of Appeals on Wednesday as attorneys debated whether registering as a sex offender is an "embarrassment" or a "life altering effect."

Prosecutors are appealing an August ruling by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge that suspended Monsignor Dale Fushek is entitled to a jury trial on a series of misdemeanor sex charges where he could be forced to register as a sex offender.

Judge Douglas Rayes ruled at that time that registering as a sex offender is "a modern day scarlet letter," but Deputy County Attorney Diane Gunnels Rowley said his ruling did not follow the law and set a bad precedent.

"It's not a grave consequence because it does not approach the depravation of liberty that a prison sentence requires," Rowley argued before a panel of three judges. "It's embarrassing. That's not the same as locking you up."

But Thomas Hoidal, Fushek's defense attorney, disagreed, saying, "It goes far beyond being inconvenient or embarrassing. A person can be required to register with law enforcement for the rest of the person's life."

The court's ruling has the potential to set legal precedent statewide on whether defendants charged with misdemeanors, with sexual motivation, receive jury trials rather than bench trials.

The attorneys disagreed on whether a jury would hear all the evidence, or be removed from the courtroom when evidence would be presented on the charges decided by San Tan Justice of the Peace Sam Goodman. The court took the case under advisement.


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