A Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson priest is facing criminalcharges for accusations that he sexually abused boys more than 20 yearsago.
The Rev. Gary E. Underwood has been indicted on counts of sexualconduct with a minor and child molestation, the Pima County Attorney'sOffice said.
He's accused of victimizing two boys under the age of 15 in 1983and 1984, Deputy Pima County Attorney Kathleen Mayer said Tuesday.
"He's innocent and we look forward to litigating," Underwood'sattorney, Dan Cooper, said. Cooper said Underwood is currently free onbond, but he would not say where the priest is living.
Mayer says the molestations occurred while Underwood, now in hisearly 50s, was a priest at St. Odilia's Catholic Church, 7570 N. Paseodel Norte, on Tucson's Northwest Side.
Officials with the Tucson diocese would not comment on Underwood's case Tuesday, but referred all inquiries to Mayer.
The diocese's directory lists Underwood as being on leave from thediocese and serving as a chaplain at Barksdale Air Force Base inShreveport, La.
Under diocese policy on allegations of child abuse, Underwood is now suspended from the priesthood.
The diocese already has made public a list of 30 priests, twodeacons and one nun with credible allegations of abuse against them.The diocese created the list in 2002, after reaching a $14 millionsettlement with 10 men who said they had repressed memories of beingsexually abused as children by four local clergy members in the 1960s,'70s and '80s.
Mayer said Underwood, who was arraigned Nov. 17, is facing eightcharges. If convicted, he faces prison time, though Mayer was uncertainhow much time.
Mayer said Underwood served at St. Odilia's from 1982 to 1988.
Mayer's office learned about the case from the diocese, whichheard about accusations from a family member of one of the men who sayshe was abused.
Three priests who once worked in the diocese have already beensent to prison for sexual abuse — the Rev. Julían Sanz, the formerpastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Douglas, who in 2003was sentenced to five years for sexually abusing an 11-year-old altarboy during confession in 1982; the Rev. Juan Guillen, the formerassociate pastor at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Yuma, whois serving 10 years for two counts of attempted child molestation inconnection with sexually abusing altar boys; and the Rev. ThomasPurcell a member of the Society of Mary Religious order, who is serving9.5 years for sexually abusing a South Tucson boy in the 1980s.
Facing a spate of potentially expensive lawsuits over the sexualabuse by priests in 2004, the diocese entered Chapter 11 bankruptcyprotection. Last year, it became the first Catholic diocese in thecountry to emerge from Chapter 11 and created a fund of more than $20million for people who were sexually abused.
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