Woman says she was raped by ex-Visalia priest. Now she's suing Diocese of Fresno

By James Ward
Visalia Times-Delta
February 03, 2020

[with video]

The Diocese of Fresno is being sued by a woman who says she was sexually assaulted as a teenager by a Roman Catholic priest who once served in Visalia. 

The case had previously been the focus of a 2002 Kings County criminal case in which  Rev. Miguel Flores was found not guilty of three counts of rape, two counts of witness intimidation and one charge of criminal threats. 

Flores was put on leave by the diocese in 2019 after new allegations surfaced about the 2002 case involving the 16-year-old girl. 

Flores' suspension came after the Diocese of Fresno announced in February 2019 it would review charges of sexual abuse by priests and other church officials dating back to 1922. 

The 2020 lawsuit alleges Flores, most recently of east Bakersfield's St. Joseph Catholic Church, began grooming the victim in 2001 by taking her and her younger sisters shopping for clothes, to an amusement park, and purchasing her a car.

Flores also employed the victim to work in the parish offices, according to court documents.

The suit alleges Flores’ sexual abuse, including rape, began in or around the end of 2001 and continued through 2002, and that the abuse was accompanied by relentless and intimidating verbal and physical threats.

The lawsuit did not name how much money in damages the victim is seeking.

The victim's attorney, Attorney Paul Mones, of Bakersfield, credits a new California law, AB 218, that allows any sexual abuse victim who was previously barred from filing a lawsuit because of the statute of limitations, a three-year window to bring an action against their abuser. 

"There are countless adults, like our courageous client, who were prevented from holding the institutions in which they were abused accountable, because the sexual abuse occurred too long ago," Mones said. "AB 218 now enables victims, like our client, the access to justice that they so rightly deserve."

Flores has been a Catholic priest since 1995. He was at St. Joseph Church since 2007 before his leave. Before that, he worked at churches in Arvin, Fresno, Tranquility, Visalia, Orange Cove, and Squaw Valley.

The Diocese of Fresno stretches across eight counties, including Tulare, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Inyo, Madera, Merced and Mariposa, and serves 1.2 million parishioners.

The Diocese declined to comment on this story.


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