Priest Gets 1 Year for Molesting Boy, 12

By David Olson
The Press-Enterprise
September 1, 2011

The Rev. Alejandro "Alex" Jose Castillo

A priest who served in four Inland parishes was sentenced Wednesday to a year in jail for molesting a 12-year-old boy in Ontario in 2008.

The boy's parents are preparing to file a lawsuit against the Diocese of San Bernardino, which they accuse of hiding previous sex abuse complaints against the priest, an attorney for the couple said.

The Rev. Alejandro "Alex" Jose Castillo, 58, must register as a sex offender for life, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Jon Ferguson said.

"To say you took advantage of a position of trust is an understatement," Ferguson said. "It's really sad the pain you inflicted on this family and others."

Castillo was initially charged with eight felony sex counts that, upon conviction, could have led to 22 years in prison. But in April, he pleaded guilty to a single charge in a plea agreement reached after the boy's parents said they wanted to spare him and his brother, who also says he was molested, from testifying in court.

Prosecutors could not bring charges in the alleged abuse involving the then-16-year-old brother because the one-year statute of limitations had expired.

Others have accused Castillo of sexual abuse.

A Texas man told Ontario police he was abused by Castillo when he was 14.

Two other Inland men told police they were sexually abused by Castillo as young men.

One of the Inland men, who was in the courtroom for Castillo's sentencing Wednesday, also is considering a lawsuit against the diocese and Castillo, along with St. Catherine of Siena parish in Rialto, where Castillo served in the early 2000s while the man was a parishioner there, said the man's attorney, Anthony De Marco.

The man, who was 18 at the time and is now 30, did not want to be identified.

Court documents show the diocese was aware of the two Inland men's alleged abuse in 2008, the same year the 12-year-old boy was molested. De Marco said the diocese should have called police once it received two separate allegations of sexual abuse.

If that had happened, "the child in 2008 wouldn't have been molested," he said.

Since the Diocese of San Bernardino was created in 1978, 14 priests from the diocese have been accused of abuse, diocesan spokesman John Andrews said. An organization that advocates on behalf of abuse victims says there are 17.

Andrews said a special review board on abuse cases, comprised mostly of laypersons, did not find the accusations of De Marco's client credible.

The alleged abuse involving the other Inland man was reported by a third person, but once the diocese's vicar general, Monsignor Gerard Lopez, located the second young man, the man denied abuse had occurred, Andrews said.

The second Inland man told Ontario police last year that he was abused in 2006 while he was in marriage-preparation sessions with Castillo. Police reports said the man was visibly upset when police contacted him in 2010 and was initially reluctant to talk about the alleged abuse but then opened up.

mother 'hurt and angry'

The parents of Castillo's 12-year-old victim were in the Rancho Cucamonga courtroom as the priest was led away through a side door. Castillo said nothing, other than acknowledging the terms of his sentence and his probation.

Through an attorney, the parents declined to comment.

In a statement, the boy's mother said, "As the mother of the victims, I am hurt and angry, in knowing Alex destroyed my boys' normal sexual development physically, emotionally, and psychologically."

The parents criticized the diocese.

"We looked for help in our diocese of San Bernardino and there was absolutely no support," they said in the statement. "We then knew we had to report to authorities."

Andrews said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with them. I'm sorry they feel that way."

The diocese tried to help the family in several ways, including paying for a therapist to fly from Mexico, he said.

Andrews said the diocese was saddened by Wednesday's sentencing "because it brings to mind the very sinful and criminal acts he acknowledged in his guilty plea."

The parents were led out through a back door, to prevent contact with Castillo's supporters, a number of whom were gathered in the courtroom, said Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss, who prosecuted the case.

The Coalition to Exonerate Fr. Alex raised money to bail the priest out of jail, protested in front of the diocese's San Bernardino headquarters against what they saw as the diocese's rush to judgment against Castillo, and held vigils each week to pray for Castillo.

After Castillo was led away, about a dozen people, some crying, huddled in the hallway with Castillo's attorney, Michael Scafiddi.

The civil lawsuit -- which is expected to be filed as early as next week -- will allege the diocese, Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Ontario and Castillo are guilty of negligence and infliction of emotional distress, said Rebecca Rhoades, an attorney for the parents.

"They felt the people they spoke to in the diocese were not telling them the truth and were withholding information," she said.

The diocese did not tell them two others had complained of sexual abuse, she said.

"They said there's been nothing like this before," Rhoades said. "The family ended up learning about the other complaints from a police detective."

Andrews declined to comment on what might have been said in a private conversation with the parents.

Andrews said the diocese has barred Castillo from being an active priest in the diocese. The case has been forwarded to the Vatican, which will determine whether to laicize Castillo, which would ensure he would be stripped of his priesthood.

'one year is not enough'

The Inland man allegedly molested by Castillo while at St. Catherine was upset by Castillo's sentence.

"One year is not enough," he said. "I'm still struggling with this. It's taken a lifetime for me to get over this, and he's doing one year?"

The man said he told about 20 lay leaders and others about the abuse after it happened about 12 years ago, but only one person believed him.

"People called me a monster," he said. "They said, 'How dare I sully the name of such a wonderful man.'"

In 2008, the man said, he went to diocesan headquarters in San Bernardino to discuss it. One employee yelled at him and said he was making a false accusation, he said. Someone called police to eject him, the man said.

The man's brown rosary beads were visible outside his shirt as he stood outside the courtroom -- but the cross was tucked underneath.

"I have no faith now," the man said. "The deepest part of my soul wants to believe. I have that yearning. But I just don't."


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