Second alleged sex crimes victim sues Fresno Catholic Diocese over decades-old claims

By Yesenia Amaro
Fresno Bee
January 31, 2020

[with video]

The Diocese of Fresno faces a second lawsuit in less than a month filed under the state’s New Child Victims Act.

The suit accuses Father Miguel Flores of sexual abuse claims of which he was acquitted after a criminal trial in 2002.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court also names as defendants St. Paul, Tranquility Roman Catholic Church and Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church. The alleged victim, who is only identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe was about 16 years old when the alleged abuse by Flores took place. She is now 34.

Flores was placed on administrative leave on Feb. 28, 2019, after a report from a third party came to light in connection with the 2002 case in which he was acquitted. He was serving at St. Joseph Church in Bakersfield when he was placed on leave.

The diocese, which covers Merced, Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Kern, Madera, Mariposa and Inyo counties, serves an estimated 1.2 million Catholics.

Teresa Dominguez, chancellor with the Diocese of Fresno, on Friday said Flores remains on paid administrative leave. She declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“Until the Diocese is officially served and has an opportunity to review the complaint we will not be able to comment,” she said.

Attorney Paul Mones, who is based in Los Angeles and specializes in representing victims of sexual abuse, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the alleged victim.

The lawsuit accuses Flores of raping, fondling and kissing the then 16-year-old girl.

“Flores’ sexual abuse of (the alleged victim) was accompanied by relentless, intimidating and unspeakable verbal and physical threats,” the lawsuit says. “These threats included Flores warning plaintiff that no one would believe her if she reported his assaults. Flores also threatened plaintiff that he and/or his family would physically harm plaintiff’s family and her then-boyfriend, now-husband if she revealed this abuse to any third person.”

The alleged victim claims the sexual abuse took place on at least six occasions between 2001 and 2002, according to the lawsuit.

She reported the abuse to authorities in March 2002, and soon after, Flores was arrested and charged with rape, according to the lawsuit. After a trial in August 2002, a jury acquitted Flores of the charges.

The following year, the Diocese of Fresno allowed Flores to return to the ministry, according to the lawsuit. The Diocese allegedly offered the victim and her family professional counseling.

In 2019, when the sexual abuse allegations resurfaced, Dominguez allegedly called the alleged victim and apologized to her for the sexual abuse she experienced, and the trial she had to witness in 2002 as a minor, according to the suit. During the same call, Dominguez allegedly informed the alleged victim a third party had come forward regarding her abuse by Flores, and the allegations were now found to be credible.

The alleged victim is seeking a jury trial on issues that can be tried.

Meanwhile, Dominguez on Friday, in a news release, said the diocese is extending the deadline for claims to be submitted for its independent compensation program for victims of clergy sexual abuse as minors.

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