Sunday, December 30, 2007

Priest in mistrial now rector in Fresno

A Fresno priest accused of molestation in a civil suit that was resolved after an inconclusive trial has been named rector of San Joaquin Memorial High School, a spokesman for the Diocese of Fresno confirmed Thursday.

The Rev. Eric Swearingen, pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Fresno's Woodward Park area, had been accused by former altar boy Juan Rocha of molesting him at two other parishes in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Nine of 12 jurors found in favor of the allegations in a Fresno County Superior Court trial one year ago, but only seven jurors concluded that the diocese knew about the abuse, prompting a mistrial. Prior to a new trial, the two sides agreed to binding arbitration and to keep the outcome confidential.

During the trial, Swearingen had public support from Bishop John T. Steinbock, who noted that no criminal charges were filed. The accused priest took leave from Holy Spirit for the trial. After the mistrial was declared, he returned to a standing ovation from parishioners.


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