Judges Reject Jury Trial for Mesa Monsignor

By Jill Redhage, Gary Grado
East Valley Tribune [Arizona]
June 14, 2007

The Arizona Court of Appeals decided Thursday that the former priest of St. Timothy's Catholic Community in Mesa is not entitled to a jury trial when facing the possibly sexually motivated misdemeanor charges against him.

The court found that jury trials are reserved for "serious" offenses, such as those punishable by at least six months in jail, and for offenses that historically have been promised a jury trial.

The case against Monsignor Dale Fushek didn't qualify in either situation, wrote presiding Judge Lawrence Winthrop.

The case has been sent back to the San Tan Justice Court for a decision.

Fushek faces one count of assault, five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one count of indecent exposure.

He was charged in November 2005, accused of having sexually related discussions during confessions with teenagers and exposing himself to teens as he got into his hot tub.

Fushek's attorney, Tom Hoidal, argued before the Court of Appeals that the priest is entitled to a jury trial because he could be required to register as a sex offender if he's convicted — a serious punishment.

A San Tan Justice Court judge ruled in March 2006 that Fushek was entitled to a jury trial on the indecent exposure charge, but the rest of the charges would be tried by a judge.

That ruling was overturned in August by Judge Douglas Rayes of Maricopa County Superior Court.

Rayes ruled that having to register as a sex offender would be like a "modern-day scarlet letter," thus heightening the consequences beyond that of a mere misdemeanor conviction.

Fushek's attorney previously has said that his client would appeal his case to the Supreme Court if the Court of Appeals ruled against him.

Fushek served as St. Timothy's priest for 20 years and founded the national Life Teen program.

Jill Redhage:

Gary Grado:


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