Santillan Granted Re-Trial

CBS 47
June 15, 2009

A new trial granted Monday for one of two alter boys who say they were sexually assaulted as children by a Fresno diocesan priest.

Brothers George and Howard Santillan, alter boys over 35 years ago, lost a civil child molestation and cover up case they filed against the Fresno Catholic Diocese in April.

Monsignor Anthony Herdegen was accused of molesting the brothers from 1959 to 1972 while Herdegen was a priest at St. John's Catholic Church in Wasco, a town just north of Bakersfield.

However, in a 9-3 vote Jurors exonerated the diocese, finding that church officials were unaware of the incident at the time.

According to reports, jurors of the case said there was a lack of evidence to prove church officials knew Herdegen was a sexual predator.

The Santillan's walked away from a $20 million law suit empty-handed after nearly six-years of litigation.

Following the courts ruling, attorneys for the brothers filed a request in Fresno County Superior Court asking for a re-trial, citing newly discovered evidence.

The newly discovered evidence includes testimony from Patrick Wright.

Wright, an Arizona man, says his family reported Herdegen's abuse to a Catholic school principal during the time span George and Howard Santillan were said to have been abused.

Head of the support group SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests), Barbara Blaine said through the organizations website, that It seems clear Fresno church officials knew Wright was a victim, but they kept it a secret.

"We are grateful for Patrick's courage, and that a jury will get to hear his testimony," Blaine said.

Last week, the re-trial was granted for Howard, but not for George — the older of the two. A new trial date has yet to be set.

During the trial, current Fresno diocesan priest Roger Craig testified. Craig said he believed the crimes did not happen despite statements from several diocesan staff who admitted Herdegen molested the Santillan brothers.

According to Fresno Catholic officials, they still do not dispute that the crimes took place.


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