Dec 07, 2006 - The jury in thetrial of a Fresno priest, accused of molesting an alter boy at the HolySpirit Catholic church in Fresno, began deliberations shortly after 9a.m. Thursday morning.
31-year-old Juan Rocha is accusing Father Eric Swearingen of sexuallymolesting him between the ages of 12 and 15. The 45-year-old priestnever admitted guilt in case and an attorney for the diocese, CareyJohnson, said Swearingen was simply trying to help a troubled boy inneed.
The jury must decide if the abuse happened, and if so, if the FresnoCatholic Diocese knew about it and failed to take action. If theallegations are determined to be true, the jury must then decide howmuch compensation Rocha should receive.
On Thursday, Rocha’s attorney offered to settle the civil lawsuit forone dollar, but only on the condition that Father Swearingen be removedpermanently from the ministry.
“For the first time in the history of this litigation, today, theplaintiff made a dollar amount demand,” said Rocha attorney LarryDevron.
The Fresno Catholic Diocese promptly rejected the offer, “...at thispoint action is necessary and that action would speak to the question,”Johnson said.
An emotional Rocha said the trial has deeply affected him and his family.
”“It's just hard because I come from a very devout Catholic family, andit's just been devastating for them because they're at war with theirreligion, because they let us down.”
The jury did not reach a verdict by Thursday's end, and will continue deliberations Friday morning.
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.Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia