No Trial Date Set for Former Tulia Priest Accused of Indecency

By Russell Anglin
Amarillo Globe-News
August 27, 2013

This June 30, 2003 file photo shows John Anthony Salazar, a former priest accused of sexually assaulting two boys in Los Angeles in the 1980s, appearing with his attorney, Daniel Guerrero, right, in Superior Court in Los Angeles for his arraignment. When Salazar arrived in Tulia, Texas, in 1991, he was warmly welcomed by the Roman Catholic community tucked in the Texas Panhandle. What his new parishioners didn't know was he'd been hired out of a treatment program for pedophile priests land that he'd been convicted for child molestation and banned from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for life.

A jury trial for a former Tulia priest accused of indecency with a child has been postponed, Swisher County Clerk Brenda Hudson said Tuesday.

John Anthony Salazar’s trial originally was scheduled for Tuesday when a judge set ground rules for the case, the Associated Press reported in June.

Rod Hobson, Salazar’s attorney, requested a change of venue for the trial, saying in court documents that Salazar, who was 57 when the charge was filed, cannot obtain a fair trial in Tulia due to extensive local and national publicity, AGN Media files show. The alleged abuse involved a 12-year-old boy and began in 1997.

The prosecution disputed the defense’s notion pretrial publicity would preclude the former priest from obtaining impartial jurors to hear the case. Swisher County Attorney Mike Criswell said in a court motion that media coverage of the case has primarily been in Amarillo and Plainview, and has not been extensive. The motion to change the location of the trial should be denied, Criswell said in the motion.

The judge has not yet ruled on the motion.

The next scheduled jury trial in 64th District Court is Oct. 22, Hudson said, but Salazar was not listed on the docket for that date.

The Amarillo Diocese hired Salazar in 1991 directly from a New Mexico treatment program that treated pedophile priests and assigned him to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Tulia, but diocesan officials said earlier they had received no complaints during his service with the tiny parish.

In Los Angeles, Salazar pleaded guilty in 1987 to one count of oral copulation and one count of lewd or lascivious acts with a child for molesting two altar boys, ages 13 and 14. He served three years of a six-year prison term before being sent in 1990 to the New Mexico treatment program.

He was also required to register as a sex offender and was banned from serving as a priest in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

The Diocese of Amarillo hired Salazar and assigned him to the Tulia parish when he was still on parole.

In a letter to a Los Angeles cardinal in 1992, former Amarillo Bishop Leroy Matthiesen defended his decision to hire priests with backgrounds of sexual abuse.

Matthiesen died in 2010, but in an autobiography he defended his decision to hire molesting priests from the New Mexico program, saying they had “repented, paid the price, were rehabilitated, stayed within the boundaries laid out for them.”

The Diocese of Amarillo has since issued a statement by Bishop Patrick Zurek that said “a serious mistake” was made when diocesan officials brought Salazar to Tulia.

Senior Investigative Reporter Jim McBride contributed to this report.



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