A Catholic priest was found guilty Thursday of conspiracy after trying to pay a hit man $5000 to kill a 16-year old boy who had accused him of rape at gunpoint. The hit man turned out to be an undercover police officer. John Fiala, the priest (now an ex-priest), still faces sexual assault charges.
A 2010 CNN article reported the background:
The youth met Fiala in 2007, according to [Tom Rhodes, the teen's attorney]. The attorney said the priest started “grooming him,” buying him gifts including a computer and a car. In early 2008, when the boy was 16, under the guise of providing private catechism lessons, Fiala “gained access to him and began to sexually abuse him once or twice a month, including on church grounds,” Rhodes said.
At the time, Fiala was administrator of Sacred Heart of Mary in Rocksprings, Texas, which is in Edwards County. The alleged abuse occurred in two counties — Edwards and Howard — and included the youth’s rape at gunpoint, the attorney said.
Fiala allegedly threatened to kill the youth if he told anyone — threats he repeated in daily text messages, Rhodes said, and Fiala also threatened to kill himself, telling the teen they would “go to heaven together.”
The teen, after struggling with the abuse, told a school counselor, who notified authorities, Rhodes said. He filed suit in April against Fiala, as well as the archdioceses of San Antonio, Texas, and Omaha, Nebraska — where Fiala was before Texas — and Fiala’s religious order, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, the attorney said.
Yesterday, via The Dallas Morning News:
John Fiala, who faces up to life in prison, showed no outward emotion as the verdict was read. The jury of nine women and three men that convicted him after a few hours of deliberating will decide his punishment.
Testimony in the punishment phase of the trial is underway.
Fiala testified this morning that he told a purported hit man to kill his accuser because he thought his own life was in danger.
He said his friend and neighbor Scottie Fisher told him the hit man was his brother. The brother would likely turn on Fiala if he wasn’t convinced the hit was on, Fiala said Fisher told him.
“I knew that if I didn’t do this, I’d be the one on the list, marked to be killed, according to what Scottie said,” Fiala said.
But the man Fiala met with in November 2010 and instructed to murder his accuser in exchange for $5,000 was actually an undercover police officer. And the entire conversation was surreptitiously video recorded and played for the Dallas County jury yesterday.
Fiala’s attorney asked him why he gave specific instructions to the undercover cop, including to “chop off his head.”
“That was what Scottie told me to say,” Fiala said.
Investigators found photos of young men or boys exposing themselves on Fiala’s computer after his arrest. Testimony at the trial also revealed that Fiala used a Facebook account under the name “Ziggy the Great,” owned a Sponge Bob Square Pants calendar and collected other toys.
Video below, and image, above, via KWES.
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