Bail $700,000 for Ex-omaha Priest

By Susan Szalewski and Christopher Burbach
Omaha World-Herald
November 23, 2010

The case of a former Omaha priest charged with sexual assault in Texas has become even stranger: Now the Rev. John M. Fiala is accused of trying to hire someone to kill his accuser.

Texas Rangers and Texas state troopers arrested Fiala on Thursday after he negotiated a murder arrangement with an undercover officer at his home in Garland, Texas, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman told the San Antonio Express-News.

Fiala is being held on $700,000 bail in the Dallas County, Texas, jail on one count of solicitation to commit murder and two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, jail records show.

The sexual assault charges were part of indictments released last week in Howard County, Texas. Fiala faces a total of six charges involving his teenage accuser, who is now 18 and who would have been 16 when the alleged assaults occurred.

Fiala also faces a civil lawsuit in Texas from the alleged victim. That suit also accuses the Archdioceses of Omaha and San Antonio and Fiala's religious order of covering up prior sexual abuses of minors.

The Omaha Archdiocese has not filed a formal answer to the suit but denies the allegations, said Ed Hotz, an attorney for the archdiocese in Omaha. The archdiocese lost an argument in a hearing Monday in Texas that the civil lawsuit did not belong in Texas courts. By the time he was in Texas, Fiala was no longer a priest of the Omaha Archdiocese, and the archdiocese did not have contact with him.

"Our position was that we didn't think we had enough contact with Texas so that Texas courts could exercise jurisdiction over the Omaha Archdiocese," Hotz said.

Fiala left the Omaha Archdiocese in 1996 and joined the Society of the Most Holy Trinity in Texas.

In the spring of 2002, the Omaha Archdiocese received a complaint that Fiala had made sexual advances against a minor sometime in the 1980s. The minor "purportedly refused" the advances, the archdiocese has said.

The archdiocese said it notified the Sarpy County Attorney's Office and Fiala's religious superior in Texas, as well as the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., where Fiala was serving at the time. No charge was filed.

In the murder-for-hire case, authorities began investigating Fiala on Nov. 11, after a neighbor told them that Fiala had offered him $5,000 to kill the boy, Sheriff Don Letsinger of Edwards County, Texas, told the San Antonio newspaper.

In September, the 52-year-old priest was accused of sexually assaulting the youth at gunpoint in a hotel room and during private catechism sessions two years ago. The abuse was reported to have occurred in 2007 and 2008, when Fiala was serving at a parish in Rocksprings, Texas, which is in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

Fiala was ordained in Omaha in 1984 and ministered in the Omaha Archdiocese until 1996. He served at these parishes in the Omaha Archdiocese from 1984 to 1996: St. Columbkille, Papillion; Sacred Heart, Norfolk; St. Joan of Arc, St. Peter and Christ the King, all Omaha; St. Mary, Spencer; and St. Joseph, Wisner. He surprised St. Joseph parishioners when he departed that church suddenly.

Fiala was removed from ministry in the fall of 2008 and has not been reassigned, according to the Omaha Archdiocese.

An attorney for Fiala's accuser told the San Antonio Express-News that his client was relieved that Fiala was in custody again and that Fiala had threatened to physically harm or kill the teen before.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1304,


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.