San Diego

Trial Date Set for Suspended Priest Accused of Groping Seminary Student

Juan Garcia Castillo, 35, had served as an associate pastor at St. Patrick's Parish in Carlsbad

A trial date has been set for a San Diego-area priest accused of forcibly groping and making sexual advances towards an adult seminary student.

Juan Garcia Castillo, 35, is accused of unlawfully touching an intimate part of another person on February 4, according to a complaint filed against him.

Castillo, who is a naturalized United States citizen originally from Honduras, had served as an associate pastor at St. Patrick's Parish in Carlsbad since 2011.

He was removed from the parish in March and criminally charged with one count of misdemeanor sexual battery in May.

A trial date of December 11 was set for Castillo at an arraignment hearing Friday. 

Attorney Victor Pippins said he looks forward to clearing his client's name at trial.

"we set a trial in this case because my client has dedicated his life to the Catholic church and obviously these allegations have challenged his ability to remain with the Catholic church," Pippins said. 

"That’s why we think a trial is appropriate and we look forward to it."

If convicted, Castillo faces six months behind bars and a $2,000 fine. 

The diocese of San Diego suspended Castillo the day after they got the report from officials, according to Kevin Eckery, Vice Chancellor of Communications and Public Affairs for the Diocese of San Diego. 

In a statement released Tuesday night, Eckery said the diocese did not inform the parish in an attempt not to influence the criminal case.

If the allegations involved a minor, the diocese would have made an announcement to every parish where he had served, he said.

Last week, the Catholic Diocese of San Diego released the names of eight priests who at one time worked in San Diego County and have credible reports of child abuse against them.

The eight names: The Reverends Jose Chavarin, Raymond Etienne, J. Patrick Foley, Michael French, Richard Houck, George Lally and Paolino Montagna, and Monsignor Mark Medaer.

The cases against them date as far back as the 60s and 70s, and not all of the alleged abuse incidents happened in San Diego, the diocese said. Five of the eight priests are now dead and the diocese was only able to provide photographs of three.

The addition of the names brings the total number of abusive priests connected to the diocese to 56. The previous 48 were identified after a 2007 settlement in which the diocese paid out almost $200 million to victims.

The release of the names followed a grand jury report implicating hundreds of Catholic clergy members in six Pennsylvania diocese in the sexual abuse of thousands of children over several decades.

You can read the entire grand jury report here.

Included in that report is Father Ernest Paone, who volunteered at at least two San Diego County parishes while on loan from the Pittsburgh Diocese from the 60s to the 90s.

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