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article imageCatholic priest charged in murder-for-hire back behind bars

By Lynn Herrmann     Nov 23, 2010 in World
San Antonio - A Catholic priest who was charged with a 2008 sexual assault of a Texas teenage boy has now been charged with a murder-for-hire plot to kill his accuser.
Father John M. Fiala, 52, was in Dallas County Jail on two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and one count of solicitation to commit murder, officials said. A judge has set bail for Fiala at $700,000, according to the San Antonio Express News.
The two sexual assault charges come from indictments last week in Howard County against Fiala. He now faces six charges involving the boy, who was 16 at the time of the alleged assault.
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers and Texas Rangers arrested Fiala last Thursday after he allegedly negotiated a murder-for-hire with an undercover officer at his Garland, Texas residence.
The negotiation occurred after a neighbor of Fiala’s tipped off the Edwards County Sheriff’s Department. “I received a call from an unnamed informant who was having problems with the way Fiala was acting,” Sheriff Don Letsinger said
Fiala reportedly offered the neighbor $5,000 to kill the teenager, Letsinger said, adding that the neighbor “had been solicited (to commit the murder) himself, and he didn’t want anything to do with that.”
“I have to honestly say that I didn’t expect this development,” Letsinger continued. “I really was kind of surprised that he would stick his neck out this far and talk to people he didn’t even know about having someone murdered.”
Tom Rhodes, attorney for the boy in a Bexar County lawsuit, said his client is relieved Fiala is back behind bars.
“Fiala had threatened him with physical violence and threatened to kill him before, and he was very afraid of that,” Rhodes stated. “My client wasn’t happy that Fiala was trying to recruit someone to kill him, but he’s happy Fiala is in jail now.”
In September, Fiala had been indicted on one count of aggravated sexual assault by threat and three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child in Edwards County, located west-northwest of San Antonio, where he is accused of raping the boy at gunpoint, according to a lawsuit and the charges.
The Express News reports that Fiala’s attorney, Dallas-based Rex Gunter, did not return a phone call seeking comment on Monday.
According to records, Fiala had relocated Dallas County after posting bail and his release from Edwards County Jail on September 27. He had been arrested in Kansas by a fugitive task force on the Edwards County charges. He was then extradited to Texas in September.
In the lawsuit filed last spring over the sexual assault allegations, Rhodes also named the archdioceses of San Antonio and Omaha, Neb. and the Society of Our Land of the Most Holy Trinity, Fiala’s religious order based in Robstown, Tex.
The lawsuit alleges all three religious entities concealed Fiala’ record of abuse, which they have denied. San Antonio Archbishop José Gomez and Fiala’s Robstown-based religious order removed the priest from active ministry in October 2008 after being informed by police of his activity with the boy.
On Monday, a San Antonio judge rejected the Omaha archdiocese’s argument that Texas was an improper jurisdiction for the lawsuit, Rhodes said.
The sexual assault charges against Fiala come from his time as the administrator of Sacred Heart of Mary in Rocksprings, county seat of Edwards county.
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