Arizona / West

Trial date is set for former priest accused of abuse

The Associated Press/September 15, 2006

Phoenix — Jury selection in the trial of a former priest facing sex abuse charges will begin Sept. 25 after he failed to reach a plea deal with prosecutors.

Joseph Briceno appeared before Judge Warren Granville of Maricopa County Superior Court on Wednesday.

Briceno was one of seven priests indicted in Maricopa County in 2003 on sex-abuse charges. He was captured in Mexico in December and has been jailed since.

He faces one count of sexual abuse, six counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of attempted sexual conduct with a minor.

Granville said that since the attorneys in the case couldn't reach an agreement on a plea deal, the trial will need to start.

Briceno's attorney, Karla Momberger, said the state first wanted Briceno to plead guilty to two felony counts and go to prison.

She said that was unreasonable and offered to have him plead guilty to two felonies under a deal that would have lessened one of the counts to a misdemeanor if Briceno successfully completed probation.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix wrote on its Web site that officials there first became aware of the allegations against Briceno in 1992, when he was placed on administrative leave. The diocese says a man claimed to have been molested by Briceno 10 years before making the allegation.

The man was 26 when he made the allegation.

Briceno served in various churches in the Phoenix metropolitan area between 1981 and 1992, including Holy Family Parish and St. Catherine Parish in Phoenix, St. Mary Parish in Chandler, St. Williams in Cashion and St. Charles Borromeo in Peoria.

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