Federal arrest warrant issued for priest in sex abuse case

Associated Press/July 27, 2006

Santa Rosa, California -- Federal authorities issued a no-bail arrest warrant Wednesday for a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing three boys and believed to have fled to Mexico.

Father Francisco Xavier Ochoa, 68, is wanted for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on 10 felonies, including lewd acts with a child, forcible sodomy and oral copulation.

Ochoa was suspended from the Diocese of Santa Rosa in April after admitting an incident of sexual misconduct with a 12-year-old altar boy. Bishop Daniel Walsh didn't notify law enforcement until three days later, giving Ochoa time to flee to Mexico, authorities said.

Ochoa also had confessed to molesting two other boys more than 10 years ago, authorities said.

After state charges were filed June 23, Ochoa told a friend in a telephone conversation that he knew there was a warrant for his arrest, Deputy U.S. Marshal Brett Lemmon wrote in an affidavit. Ochoa also said during the call that if Sonoma County District Attorney Stephen Passalacqua sent anyone to Mexico to get him, "he had a loaded firearm ready for them," Lemmon wrote.

Ochoa most recently served as assistant pastor at St. Francis Solano Parish in Sonoma.

The 12-year-old boy told sheriff's deputies he often went to Ochoa's apartment across the street from the church to do chores. Ochoa reportedly offered the boy $100 for a strip tease, according to court documents.

Another alleged victim said Ochoa showed him gay pornographic videos, authorities said.

Passalacqua's office has launched an investigation into whether Walsh and other officials violated a state law requiring doctors, nurses, teachers and clergy members to immediately report child sex abuse claims.

Walsh has said the diocese acted in "good faith" and moved with "reasonable speed" in reporting the allegations.

"We're continuing to cooperate with the authorities in any investigation," diocese attorney Dan Galvin said Wednesday.

Ochoa is the 17th priest from the diocese to be accused of molesting a total of 62 children. In all, the diocese has paid or promised to pay dozens of people nearly $20 million since 1990.

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