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Tuesday, September 22 2020 @ 12:01 PM CDT

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Priest accused of plotting complainant's death

A former Roman Catholic priest charged with sexually abusing a teenage boy in 2008 in his rural Texas parish is now accused of plotting the alleged victim's murder, authorities said.

John M. Fiala, 52, is being in the Dallas County jail with bonds totaling $700,000, according to online jail records. He was already charged with sexual abuse of a child, and now faces a count of murder solicitation, records show.

Fiala was arrested Thursday at his home in Garland, a Dallas suburb, after meeting with an undercover officer to arrange the alleged victim's death, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger told the San Antonio Express-News. Vinger said the investigation began Nov. 11 when Fiala's neighbor tipped off Edwards County Sheriff Don Letsinger.

The informant reported that Fiala had offered him $5,000 to kill the sexual abuse complainant, who is now 18, Letsinger said. The informant "had been solicited himself, and he didn't want anything to do with that," Letsinger told the Express-News.

Fiala's attorney, Rex Gunter of Dallas, did not return a telephone message Monday from The Associated Press.

The teenager filed a lawsuit on April against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio and then-Archbishop Jose Gomez, who is now co-adjutor archbishop of the Los Angeles archdiocese. The lawsuit alleged Fiala of repeatedly sexually assaulted the teen in 2007 and 2008.

According to the lawsuit, Fiala twice forced the youth to have sex at gunpoint when Fiala was the pastor at Sacred Heart of Mary Parish in the remote West Texas community of Rocksprings, about 110 miles west of San Antonio. The lawsuit alleges the incidents occurred in 2007 and 2008.

The lawsuit also alleged officials of the archdiocese knew of serious issues with Fiala.

"Fiala had threatened him with physical violence and threatened to kill him before, and he was very afraid of that," said Dallas lawyer Tom Rhodes, who is representing the alleged victim in the lawsuit.

"My client wasn't happy that Fiala was trying to recruit someone to kill him, but he's happy Fiala is in jail now," Rhodes told the Express-News.

Fiala went before a magistrate Friday for bond hearing, but jail records don't indicate when his next court hearing will be held.

When Edwards County authorities told the Archdiocese of San Antonio in 2008 that they were investigating accusations of custodial interference - not sexual abuse - by Fiala, the priest was removed from ministry and the parish was told about the investigation, the archdiocese has said.

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Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com


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