Bishop Tied to Abuse Case Could Face Charges
Sheriff's Office Says Man Did Not Promptly Report Allegations of Child Sex Abuse against a Priest, Who Fled the Country

The Associated Press, carried in Contra Costa Times
August 26, 2006

SANTA ROSA — Sonoma County sheriff's investigators have recommended criminal charges be filed against Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh for failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse by a fellow priest.

If prosecutors pursue the case, it would be the first time a U.S. bishop faced such charges.

"We think we have a strong enough case here for charges to be filed," Sgt. Dennis O'Leary said, adding that the final decision rests with the District Attorney's Office.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

Walsh has publicly apologized for failing to immediately report to authorities the admission made to him April 28 by the Rev. Xavier Ochoa. The three-day lag in notifying law enforcement gave Ochoa time to flee to Mexico, where authorities believe he remains.

Ochoa, 68, worked at St. Francis Solano Church in Sonoma before admitting misconduct in a meeting with Walsh and two other church officials. He was charged with 10 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of child sex abuse involving three victims.

State law requires clergy, among others, to immediately report any suspicions of child sex abuse and to follow up by fax or e-mail within 36 hours. A violation is a misdemeanor and has a potential penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.


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