Abuse query widens with two other allegations

Priest was removed from Santa Rosa diocese position after admitting misconduct with a boy

Associated Press/June 22, 2006

Sonoma -- A sexual abuse investigation involving a Catholic priest who was removed from his post after he admitted sexual misconduct with a boy has now widened to include allegations by two others, court records show.

When officials from the Diocese of Santa Rosa announced the removal of the Rev. Xavier Ochoa last month, they told parishioners of St. Francis Solano Church that the misconduct was limited to one incident in April when he asked a 12-year-old altar boy to strip naked for him.

But according to Sonoma County court records, Ochoa admitted to Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh a month before the announcement that he had a history of inappropriate contact with boys. While officials limited their disclosures to the public, they told authorities about the priest's admissions, the records show.

Authorities now are seeking sexual abuse charges against Ochoa involving the boy and two other men who said they were molested by the priest as far back as 15 years ago.

Sheriff's Sgt. Dennis O'Leary declined to elaborate on the allegations made by the men, other than to say they involved "substantial sexual conduct."

Authorities also seized child pornography and cocaine during a May 4 search of Ochoa's personal items in a storage unit, the records show.

Ochoa, 69, who served in the diocese for six years, is believed to be in Mexico and could not be reached for comment by the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa.

Diocese attorney Dan Galvin told the newspaper that officials failed to publicly disclose Ochoa's other admissions, either because details of Walsh's meeting with Ochoa may not have made it into personnel files by the time of the announcement, or because Walsh decided not to share details of what he considered a private conversation with colleagues.

Galvin, however, insisted there was no deliberate attempt to mislead anyone.

"I don't think that's the case at all," he said.

Walsh did not respond to a request for comment by the Press Democrat.

In its official accounting, the diocese has acknowledged 16 priests have been accused of molesting 59 children in the past 40 years.

Walsh has won a court order to keep personnel files secret, citing privacy concerns of priests.

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