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PRIEST ACCUSED OF SEX CRIMES
Phoenix monsignor arrested on 10 counts
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 22, 2005 12:00 AM
Monsignor Dale Fushek, once one of the most popular and powerful priests in the Phoenix Diocese, was accused Monday of sexual misconduct with teenage boys and young men.
In announcing Fushek’s arrest on 10 misdemeanor criminal counts, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said, “It’s troubling any time a person in a position of public trust violates that.”
Thomas said the investigation is continuing and that more serious charges are possible.
Fushek, 53, is accused of indecent exposure, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and assault involving five minors and two young adult men.
His attorney, Michael Manning, said Fushek insists the incidents “never happened” and will fight the charges. . The teenage boys and young men appear to have been associated with Life Teen, a popular youth ministry that Fushek founded in 1985. Authorities say the incidents occurred from 1984 to 1994 and took place at St. Timothy Church in Mesa. Fushek was an influential and well-liked pastor there for 20 years.
Fushek, who later became one of former Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien’s two key lieutenants, was not available for comment. Manning said Fushek “will never settle” or agree to a plea bargain in the case.
Fushek was arrested Monday morning at his central Phoenix residence.
Deputy County Attorney Barbara Marshall asked that he be held on $50,000 bond.
“Based on past experience with similar defendants, we feel that flight is a serious risk,” Marshall said.
At least three priests accused of sexual abuse in the Valley – Patrick Colleary, Joseph Henn and Joseph Briceno – fled the country and have refused to return to face charges.
More than a dozen Catholic priests in Phoenix have been accused, either in civil lawsuits or criminal complaints, in the nationwide sex abuse scandal that erupted in 2001. In 2003, O’Brien signed an agreement granting him immunity from criminal charges in exchange for his admissions that he allowed priests accused of sexual misconduct to work with minors and that he transferred clergy accused of sexual abuse without telling their supervisors or parishioners of the allegations against them. . The bishop later resigned after he was accused in a hit-and-run auto accident, for which he was later convicted.
Instead of bond, Maricopa County Commissioner Barbara Hamner ordered that Fushek be placed under house arrest at his home and wear an electronic monitor. She ordered Fushek not to have contact with anyone under the age of 18. He was released from jail Monday evening after surrendering his passport. The assault counts accuse the priest of touching or fondling three different individuals. The indecent exposure counts say Fushek exposed himself to two people.
In the contributing-to-delinquency counts, Fushek is accused of initiating “numerous sexually related discussions” with five minors, then misrepresenting some of the talks as part of the Catholic sacrament of confession.
Thomas said Fushek initiated all the incidents “as a means of self-gratification.”
None of the accusers could be reached for comment.
Monday’s charges contained only misdemeanor counts. Thomas said the one-year statute of limitations, triggered when the victims alerted authorities, was about to expire on the misdemeanors. But the investigation is ongoing. Thomas declined to elaborate.
The investigation began in the wake of a civil lawsuit filed in January. William Cesolini accused Fushek of witnessing a sexual assault against him by another priest, convicted pedophile Mark Lehman, in 1985. Cesolini was not named in the criminal complaint.
Diocese attorney Mike Haran, who worked for Fushek at St. Timothy for several years, said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted is cooperating with the investigation.
He said the bishop is “saddened” by the news.
Olmsted suspended Fushek from public duties as a priest in December 2004, when Cesolini came to the diocese with his allegations. Fushek resigned as pastor of St. Timothy six months later. He remains on paid leave.
Haran said the diocese was unaware of any of the accusers except one, who settled a sexual harassment allegation against Fushek for $45,000 in 1995.
Life Teen, the popular international youth ministry that Fushek and others founded in 1985, brought young people back to the church with meetings focused on youth concerns and special Masses that appealed to teenagers.
No Life Teen representative would talk on Monday. Donna Killoughey Bird, the organization’s legal counsel, declined comment.
Paul Pfaffenberger, head of the local chapter of SNAP-Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Fushek was the first priest he heard complaints about after starting the SNAP chapter in June 2002.
“It was all in connection with an overly sexualized environment in the Life Teen program,” Pfaffenberger said.
Republic reporters Jim Walsh and Michael Kiefer contributed to this article.
PRIEST WHO FOUNDED LIFE TEEN ARRESTED ON SEXUAL MISCONDUCT CHARGES
PHOENIX (CNS) — Msgr. Dale Fushek, 53, a former vicar general of the Phoenix Diocese and the founder of the Life Teen youth ministry program, was arrested Nov. 21 on 10 misdemeanor criminal counts of sexual misconduct with teenage boys and young men. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said Msgr. Fushek was being charged with two counts of indecent exposure, five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and three counts of assault. The misdemeanors are punishable by no more than a total of three years and nine months in jail. The charges stem from accusations that between 1984 and 1994 Msgr. Fushek behaved improperly with seven young men on the grounds of St. Timothy Parish in Mesa, where he was pastor until late 2004.