Priest admits to groping teen girl and two women
A Roman Catholic priest who ministered at a Long Beach church pleaded no contest to sexually groping a 14-year-old girl and two young women and was sentenced to five years felony probation Wednesday.
Father Luis Jose Cuevas, 67, who served at St. Athanasius Church on Linden Avenue, admitted to groping the 14-year-old and two 19-year-olds. He pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors of sexual assault in February 2012 and a felony lewd act upon a child in July 2010.
"God be with you because you need him now more than we do," Deputy Dist. Atty. Jennifer Zepeda told the priest, reading from a statement from the victims.
In addition to probation, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Jesse Rodriguez ordered the priest to complete a 40-hour community service program and to register as a sex offender.
Zepeda said all three victims were pleased with the plea and subsequent sentence because it spared them having to testify at a public preliminary hearing.
Prosecutors noted that Cuevas is the seventh priest prosecuted for sexual molestation since 2006. The sentencing and plea comes as newly released court documents show that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and the church leaders in Los Angeles sought to cover up and shield from authorities allegations against priests before 2002.
In this case, the two adult women initially reported the alleged incidents to the archdiocese and then filed a police report.
During the investigation, the teenager came forward and alleged repeated incidents during which Cuevas inappropriately touched “an intimate part” of her body for his own sexual arousal, the complaint contends.All of the incidents allegedly occurred at the church, where Cuevas served and lived for seven years until the crime was reported to the archdiocese, which removed him.
In a statement that was read at the church’s weekend Masses after the arrest, the archdiocese said it “takes all such matters seriously and considers both allegations to be credible. This week, the archdiocese took action to remove Father Cuevas from all ministry and he will be living privately pending the outcome of these matters.”
-- Richard Winton