Charges against Former Yakima Diocese Employee Dismissed

By Jane Gargas
Yakima Herald-Republic
May 6, 2009

YAKIMA, Wash. -- All criminal charges against a former employee of the Catholic Diocese of Yakima were dropped Wednesday in an Oregon court.

The Marion County Circuit Court dismissed charges of encouraging child sex abuse against Juan Jose González Rios of Tieton.

Marion County Deputy District Attorney Jodie Bureta filed the motion to dismiss the case against González. She was out of her office Wednesday and unavailable for comment.

Juan Gonzalez

Zillah attorney J.J. Sandlin said that his client has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

On Wednesday, González said, "It's wonderful news. I'm happy that all these issues are in the past, and it proves I told the truth."

González, 38, was arrested in Tieton in March 2008 on a fugitive warrant charging him with viewing child pornography, a felony, while he was studying to be a Catholic priest in Oregon six years ago.

González spent about four years at Mount Angel Seminary in Mount Angel, Ore., but was dismissed in February 2003 after the seminary reported the pornography allegations to Mount Angel police.

After González left the seminary and returned to the Yakima diocese, Bishop Carlos Sevilla hired him for a part-time job at St. Peter Retreat Center in Cowiche.

González subsequently became director there, remaining in that capacity until he was pulled over by police in Tieton for speeding in March 2008.

When police discovered the Oregon warrant, they arrested González. He subsequently pleaded not guilty.

González was released from custody in May 2008 and has remained at home in Tieton awaiting his appearance in the Oregon court. He has not worked for the diocese since his arrest.

Sevilla apologized for his handling of the situation at a March 2008 news conference, acknowledging that he had hired González, even though he knew the former seminarian was under criminal investigation.

On Wednesday the Rev. Robert Siler, Yakima diocese chief of staff, said diocesan officials were pleased for González. "I'm sure it was a very difficult year for Juan, and I hope he'll be able to move on with his life in a positive way."

González, who has a degree in psychology from Heritage University, has been doing farm work in the Upper Valley while awaiting the outcome of the legal charges.

Sandlin said on Wednesday that the dismissal is not the end of the legal road for González because he will be filing a civil lawsuit in federal court, alleging that his client had been victimized.

Sandlin declined to comment further but indicated that personnel in Catholic dioceses in Oregon and Yakima would be named in the litigation.

"Juan's family has paid a terrible price in stress and frustration," Sandlin said.

González said he was just pleased to have the ordeal behind him.

"This feels really nice in my heart," he said.


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