Texas priest accused of sexual assault is
arrested in Arlington
By STEVE McGONIGLE / The Dallas Morning News
Friday, February 13, 2004
A Panhandle priest accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old
college student in Irving last year was arrested Friday morning
in Arlington, police said.
The Rev. John Anthony Salazar, 48, was taken into custody
after he answered the door at a home in south Arlington and
confirmed his identity to officers, said Christy Gilfour,
a spokeswoman for the Arlington Police Department.
After several hours in the Arlington jail, Father Salazar
was transferred by Dallas County sheriff's deputies to Lew
Sterrett Justice Center, said a sheriff's spokesman, Sgt.
Don Peritz. He is being held on $500,000 bail, Sgt. Peritz
Father Salazar, who was removed as pastor of a Catholic church
in Tulia in 2002 and barred from all ministerial duties, was
indicted by a Dallas County jury Thursday on a charge of sexually
assaulting a teenage friend after a wedding last fall.
James Vasilas, a Dallas lawyer who has said he represents
Father Salazar, did not return phone calls seeking comment
During an interview in January, Mr. Vasilas said his client
had committed no crime. He attributed the assault accusation
to a dispute within the family of his accuser.
Since his removal, Father Salazar is thought to have lived
with friends in the Panhandle and Arlington. The home where
he was arrested Friday is owned by a couple described as friends
who formerly lived in Tulia.
His prosecution is described as extraordinary because it
alleges a sexual crime between a priest and another adult
male. No other priest in the last 30 years has faced such
a charge in criminal court, a leading expert in clergy abuse
Beau Villegas, an Amarillo college student who contended
that he was sexually assaulted by Father Salazar, described
the priest as a close friend of his family. Father Salazar
attended the wedding in Irving as a guest of his family, Mr.
The assault occurred in the priest's motel room after the
wedding reception, Mr. Villegas said. He said that he was
too intoxicated to fight off the priest's advances but that
the sexual contact was not consensual.
The Dallas Morning News generally does not identify victims
of sexual abuse, but Mr. Villegas has said he wanted his name
Mr. Villegas, his mother and grandmother have said they did
not know until Father Salazar was removed as their pastor
that he had been convicted of sex crimes in California before
coming to Texas in the early 1990s.
According to court records, Father Salazar pleaded guilty
in 1988 to molesting two boys at a Catholic school in Los
Angeles. He served more than two years in prison before he
was paroled to a church-run treatment program for sexually
Because of his previous conviction, Father Salazar faces
an automatic life sentence if he is convicted of a second
sexual offense, said Howard Blackmon, the assistant district
attorney who will be prosecuting the priest's latest case.