|Court: Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse Not Entitled to Jury Trial
By Jim Walsh
June 16, 2007
A Roman Catholic priest facing misdemeanor sex charges suffered a legal setback Thursday when the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled he is not entitled by law to a jury trial, even though he could be ordered to register as a sex offender if convicted.
The court ruled in favor of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, saying it's discretionary whether a judge would order suspended Monsignor Dale Fushek, 54, to register as a sex offender if found guilty.
Superior Court Judge Douglas Rayes had ruled that Fushek is entitled to a jury trial, saying that registration as a sex offender is the legal and modern equivalent of wearing a "scarlet letter," an allusion to the classic Nathanial Hawthorne novel of the same name. The Court of Appeals reversed Rayes' ruling and sends Fushek's case back to San Tan Justice Court, where Justice of the Peace Sam Goodman previously granted Fushek a jury trial on only an indecent-exposure count, and had planned a bench trial on charges of assault and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Fushek's trial has been delayed for a year by the dispute over what sort of trial he would receive.
Fushek was once second-in-command at the Diocese of Phoenix.
"We will uphold the rights of these victims by moving forward diligently with this prosecution," Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said Friday at a press conference.
Tom Hoidal, Fushek's attorney, could not be reached for comment. He has said he expected any ruling by the Court of Appeals to be appealed by the losing side to the Arizona Supreme Court.
The charges stem from Fushek's dealings with teenaged boys between 1984 and 1993 at St. Timothy's Catholic Church in Mesa, where he was the longtime pastor and founder of the now-nationwide Life Teen Program. Fushek was exposed to possible sex-offender registration by his indictment, which alleges that he acted with "sexual motivation."
If convicted, Fushek faces a maximum of three years in jail.
The charges revolve around five men who were teens in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Fushek is accused of engaging in explicit conversations about sex with the boys, inviting one into his bed, "engaging in kissing and snuggling," and exposing himself to the same boy.
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