Catholic Priest Accused of Sexually Abuse

United Press International
February 9, 1986

SPOKANE, Wash. — A Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing adolescent patients while a counselor at a drug treatment center was free on $2,500 bond Saturday, following his pre-arranged surrender to police.

The Rev. Ronald Lane Fontenot, 40, suspended from religious duties in the Lafayette, La., diocese in 1983 amid allegations of molesting boys, was booked in City-County Jail on Friday and then released under bond.

Virginia Greaney, deputy Spokane County prosecutor, said the conditions of Fontenot's release were that he have no contact with any of the alleged victims, that he avoid contact with anyone under the age of 17 and that he remain in Spokane County pending trial.

A first court appearance has not been scheduled yet, she said.

He was charged with three counts of simple assault, one count of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes and one count of third-degree statutory rape.

The charges mostly involve teenagers who said Fontenot made sexual advances to them while they were patients at the Nancy Reagan Care Unit, a drug and alcohol treatment facility at Deaconess Medical Center. Fontenot was employed as a counselor at the unit from July 1985 to January 1986.

The priest was suspended from his religious duties in the diocese of Lafayette, La., in 1983 amid allegations he molested young boys there. Fontenot and the diocese have been named in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought by the parents of one of the alleged Louisiana victims.

Following his suspension, the diocese sent the priest to a treatment center in Massachusetts, but he apparently left there and came to Spokane in late 1984, police said.

He was dismissed from the Deaconess treatment unit in January, after a former male patient complained Fontenot had made sexual advances to him. Deaconess officials said they checked Fontenot's background before hiring him but were unaware of the allegations against him in Louisiana.

Fontenot fled Spokane upon learning that police were looking for him, returned to Louisiana and contacted the attorney representing the Lafayette diocese. The attorney put Fontenot in touch with Sid Wurzburg, a Spokane lawyer, who helped the fugitive contact Spokane authorities and arrange to turn himself in.

"I talked with Rev. Fontenot," said Police Detective Al Odenthal. "Then he talked with Wurzburg, and we arranged for him to return voluntarily to Spokane."

Odenthal said the priest appeared to be frightened when he was taken into custody. He later left the jail in the company of Wurzburgh.


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