Priest in St. Petersburg Diocese Accused of Abusing Teenage Boy

St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
February 18, 2006

The Rev. Ramon Hernandez, a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, has been accused of sexual misconduct with a minor.

The accuser said the alleged abuse began in 1999 at St. Rita's Catholic Church in Dade City, said Vicki Wells Bedard, spokeswoman for the diocese.

She said Hernandez was serving at St. Cecelia's Catholic Church in Clearwater until a few days ago but voluntarily stepped down because of the accusation.

Robert Warren Attridge Jr., the priest's attorney, said his client is maintaining his innocence.

"I think the alleged victim was trying to extort money from Father Hernandez, and when Father Hernandez wouldn't come up with the money, they came forward with their complaint to the diocese," Attridge said. "He is pretty devastated by the whole thing."

The lawyer said he was told the accuser is in his early 20s.

Wells Bedard said Hernandez, 59, who recently returned from sabbatical, has worked in several parishes in the diocese. He served at Incarnation Church in Tampa from August 1981 to March 1982, St. Paul's in Tampa from September 1993 to March 1999 and St. Rita's from March 1999 to June 2005.

In a statement, the diocese said it has encouraged the accuser to report the matter to law enforcement. The diocese also said it has contacted authorities and will cooperate with any investigation.


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