Priest Indicted in Abuse of Girl in Early 1990s
Clergyman Faces Extradition from Spain in Cases Involving Minors in Both Yuma, Phoenix

By Chelsea Schneider
Arizona Republic
June 14, 2007

A grand jury indicted a Roman Catholic priest of two counts of sexually abusing a 13-year-old Phoenix girl about 14 or 15 years ago, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

The charges were filed nearly a year after a Yuma County grand jury indicted Jorge Washington Cordova on 10 counts of sexually abusing a minor.

Cordova fled the country in 2006 before he could be arrested. He was arrested in Spain earlier this month and is facing extradition. Cordova worked at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Yuma from 1988 to 1991. In 1991, he was moved to Phoenix, where he worked at the Charismatic Renewal Ministry.

According to the indictment, the Phoenix victim, now an adult, claimed she was fondled. She reported the incidents to Phoenix police more than a year ago, said Mike Anthony Scerbo, spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

James Dwyer, a spokesman for the Diocese of Phoenix, said he couldn't comment on whether the diocese knew of the Yuma allegations before Cordova came to the Valley.

Dwyer said that the diocese is fully cooperating with the investigation.

A prepared statement from the diocese read, "We are grateful to the civil authorities for their efforts to bring Fr. Cordova back to Arizona, so that he may face a legal process that we pray will bring justice to all involved."

Cordova fled to Ecuador in 2006 after learning that he was under investigation in Yuma County.

The indictment there involved the sexual abuse of two children while Cordova worked at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, according to a statement from the U.S. Marshals Service.

Cordova was arrested June 3 while attending a conference near Madrid, Spain.

Spanish authorities ordered Cordova to relinquish his passport and stay in the country.

Extradition proceedings could take up to a year, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said.

"Hopefully, he was learning something useful," Thomas said. "It may be a while before he gets to attend another seminar."


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