Priest Guilty of Molesting Boy, 17 a Longtime Catholic Educator Was Sentenced to Three Years of Probation. the Priest's Case

By Marilee Enge
San Jose Mercury News
March 1, 2001

A San Francisco priest charged with sexually assaulting a youth he picked up in the Mission district was sentenced to probation Wednesday after prosecutors dropped the most serious counts against him.

The Rev. Bernard Dabbene, a priest for 34 years and an official with the Archdiocese of San Francisco, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of molesting a minor. He was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service, avoid minors and register as a sex offender.

Dabbene was arrested in November when police noticed his car parked in a secluded area that officers say is frequented by drug dealers and prostitutes. According to police reports, the driver and the teenager had their pants unzipped.

The youth told police he had been running from gang members when Dabbene asked if he needed a ride. The man refused to take the boy where he asked, unzipped his pants and tried to grab his genitals, the boy said.

Dabbene was charged with two felonies -- intent to commit oral copulation and false imprisonment -- and misdemeanor sexual battery in addition to the molestation count. But the felonies were dropped because he has no criminal history and because the youth was within a month of his 18th birthday, said Assistant District Attorney Susan Eto.

A San Francisco native and longtime Catholic educator, Dabbene was immediately relieved of his duties and suspended from his job at the archdiocese, where he worked as a liaison to 89 parishes. Since his arrest, he has lived in a Salesian monastery in San Francisco.

Judge Julie Tang ordered Dabbene, 64, to serve three years' probation, to undergo psychological counseling and to have no contact with the victim or anyone younger than 18 without adult supervision. He is required to register as a sex offender within five days of his plea and to re-register anytime he moves. His attorney, John Milano, said Dabbene will perform his public service for the St. Vincent DePaul Society.

Milano called the plea agreement a "fair disposition" of the charges and said Dabbene is relieved to have the criminal case behind him.

"He's looking forward to doing what he's done all his life, serving the community," Milano said.


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