Prosecutors Probe Diocese for Delay in Sex Abuse Reporting

The Associated Press, carried in The Mercury News
July 14, 2006

SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Prosecutors launched an investigation into whether Roman Catholic church officials committed a crime by waiting several days to alert authorities of sex abuse allegations against a priest who may have fled to Mexico.

Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua on Thursday confirmed an investigation into whether Bishop Daniel Walsh of the Santa Rosa diocese and other officials violated a state law requiring doctors, nurses, teachers and clergy members to immediately report child sex abuse claims.

The church learned April 27 about allegations against the Rev. Xavier Ochoa. He was suspended the next day after admitting an incident of sexual abuse with a 12-year-old boy.

But the diocese did not report the allegations to Child Protective Services until May 1, and Ochoa disappeared the next day.

Walsh has said the diocese acted in "good faith" and moved with "reasonable speed" in reporting the allegations. But critics said the delay might have allowed Ochoa to flee to Mexico.

Ochoa was charged June 22 with 10 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of child sex abuse involving three alleged victims. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

Diocese lawyer Dan Galvin said the diocese will cooperate with the investigation.


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