Mistrial declared in child rape case against priest

By Krista M Torralva
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
March 6, 2017

Stephen Tarlton Dougherty was indicted in June 2016 on one count of sexual assault of a child.

A Bee County jury couldn’t decide whether a priest and philanthropist raped a teenage girl at her grandparents’ Beeville-area home.

State District Judge Starr Bauer declared a mistrial Friday in the aggravated sexual assault trial against Stephen Tarlton Dougherty.

Jurors heard testimony over four days and deliberated about six hours. Dougherty and his accuser, who was 13 when she said he raped her, took the stand. The judge released jurors about 10 p.m. Friday after they said they were deadlocked.

Bee County Assistant District Attorney Terry Breen said he plans to re-try the case. A second trial is slated for June.

The accuser, now 18, told a counselor years later Dougherty raped her in December 2011. The counselor persuaded the woman to tell police and in June 2016 Dougherty was indicted of a first-degree felony, punishable by as much as life in prison.

Doughtery, 60, denied the rape accusation. He and his lawyer, John Pinckney of San Antonio, suggested the woman’s grandparents pushed the accusation after a business deal went bad.

In 2013, the woman’ grandparents filed a lawsuit against Dougherty over his ranch, where they lived and tended to the land and deer. Dougherty and the grandparents settled the lawsuit out of court in January 2015.

The woman’s rape accusation was the second sexual misconduct allegation the Diocese of Corpus Christi received about Dougherty. The Diocese stripped Dougherty of his duties in 2011 after the first accusation.

The details of that incident were never made public.

After Dougherty was indicted last year, the woman filed a lawsuit in Nueces County against the priest, the Diocese of Corpus Christi, and the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. The lawsuit accuses the diocese and the religious order of not doing enough to protect the woman. A trial on that lawsuit is slated for October.

Dougherty’s family came to South Texas in the 1800s and has long been active in the Catholic church, according to Caller-Times archives. Dougherty’s father, Dudley Dougherty, traveled to Rome in 1963 to attend the coronation of Pope Paul IV and received the papal honor of Knight of the Holy Sepulcher.

Dougherty’s cousin, Frances Tarlton “Sissy” Farenthold, is a former state legislator and gubernatorial candidate.


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