Warrant issued for former Salinas priest in molestation case

A no-bail bench warrant was issued Wednesday for a former Salinas priest accused of violating his probation terms, including failing to register as a sex offender, following his release from jail, the Monterey County District Attorney's Office said.

Then-Rev. Antonio Cortes was arrested in April 2009, accused of sexually molesting a teenage boy while he was a priest at St. Mary of the Nativity Church in Salinas.

Cortes pleaded no contest in March to 14 counts that included sodomy, child molestation, possession of child pornography, furnishing liquor to a minor, child endangerment and immoral acts in the presence of a minor.

The sodomy and possession of child pornography counts are felonies; the balance of the charges are misdemeanors.

Cortes was sentenced in May to a year in jail and three years of probation.

Rolando Mazariegos, a county deputy district attorney, said the Probation Department filed a violation of probation petition against Cortes alleging that he failed to report to the department within three days of his release from jail. He also failed to provide a change of address.

Mazariegos said Cortes is also accused of failing to register as a sex offender within five days of his release from jail.

Cortes was released from jail on Nov. 15, he said.

During today's hearing, Mazariegos said, Cortes' attorney, Miguel Hernandez, told the judge his client had gone to Mexico.

In July, the Cortes case led to one of two lawsuits filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey, claiming that negligence by church officials (in two separate incidents) allowed two boys to be molested by priests.

"The horrific abuse that was perpetrated upon [the victim] has had an enormous impact on his life and has caused him immeasurable pain and suffering," the lawsuit against Cortes, filed July 11, claims.

Both lawsuits claim negligence by the diocese and seek unspecified damages.

The Monterey diocese has faced at least one other lawsuit alleging abuse by one of its priests. It settled that suit in 2009 for $1.2 million.

Read the story here: http://www.thecalifornian.com/article/20111215/NEWS09/112150307

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