Sex Case Involving Former Yuma Priest Settled

Yuma Sun
June 1, 2009

The Diocese of Monterey, Calif., has agreed to pay a $1.2 million settlement and formally apologize to a man who said the church protected a Yuma priest and a California priest who had sexually abused him.

Bishop Richard Garcia will formally apologize to the man and his family, and the diocese also agreed Friday to release church documents detailing the abuse - two things the victim's attorney said he wanted most.

The attorney, John Manley, said the documents will show the diocese "has blood on its hands" because church leaders failed to notify police when they first learned the boy was assaulted, allowing one of his abusers to subsequently molest the boy's brother and others.

The settlement avoids a trial that was scheduled to start Monday.

Court records show the Rev. Juan Guillen of Immaculate Conception Church in Yuma began molesting the now 29-year-old victim in Yuma shortly after he immigrated to the United States as an 8-year-old in 1988. Guillen continued to visit the family after the family moved to Salinas and was so trusted he was allowed to sleep in the boy's bed.

A second priest, the Rev. John Velez, allegedly began molesting the boy in 1991 while he worked at St. Mary of the Nativity Catholic Church in Salinas. Guillen reported Velez to local church officials after the boy told him about Velez's abuse.

The victim previously settled with the bankrupt Diocese of Tucson for $600,000 over sexual abuse by Guillen.

In all, Guillen was accused by at least five victims of molesting them when they were minors beginning in the late 1980s and continuing on into the 1990s.

Guillen pleaded guilty in 2003 to two counts of attempted child molestation and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Monsignor Charles Fatooh, then-leader of the Monterey diocese, acknowledged in a pretrial deposition that neither he nor anyone else in the diocese alerted police, tried to protect the boy or tried to determine if there were other victims. Instead, Velez was removed from the parish and Fatooh called the diocese's attorney.

Court documents said the attorney and another priest met with the victim's mother and told her the abuse was the "sort of thing that happens to a lot of kids" and "not a big deal." She said they refused her request for money to pay for counseling for the boy.

Velez eventually was turned over to a Mexican order, while Fatooh was later forced to resign his post after it was reported that another suspected pedophile priest was living in his Maryland condominium. He remains a parish priest in Cayucos, Calif.

Velez is believed to be serving the church in Latin America.

Paul Gaspari, who negotiated the settlement on behalf of the Diocese of Monterey, told Judge Lydia Villarreal on Friday that officials would make public most of the documents and depositions related to the case, except for records that could identify the victim.

Another diocesan priest, the Rev. Antonio Cortes, faces a preliminary hearing next week on charges that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old boy and possessed child pornography. Cortes was suspended as pastor of St. Mary of the Nativity after his April arrest.


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