A judge has granted a Mesa monsignor the right to a jury trial on seven sexually related misdemeanor offenses, overruling a lower court's decision.
Defendants in petty offenses don't have a right to jury trials in Arizona unless certain legal guidelines are met, including whether the offense carries "additional severe, direct, uniformly applied, statutory consequences," wrote Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Rayes.
Monsignor Dale Fushek met that guideline since he faces the possibility of registering as a sex offender if he is convicted on the five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, assault and indecent exposure for which he is charged, Rayes reasoned.
"Registration as a sex offender is a ‘modern-day scarlet letter,' " Rayes wrote, adding, "The sex offender label, unlike the mere conviction of a misdemeanor, changes the offender's status and acceptance in society."
Fushek served as pastor at St. Timothy's Catholic Community in Mesa for 20 years and founded the national Life Teen program for Catholic adolescents. Fushek appealed the ruling by Judge Samuel Goodman of the San Tan Justice Court in Gilbert, which said he wasn't entitled to a jury trial except for the one count of indecent exposure. No trial date has been set.
Fushek was charged in November and accused of having sexually related discussion with teenagers during confession. He is also accused of exposing himself to teens as he got into his hot tub. An investigation into sexual misconduct in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix resulted in the indictments of eight priests on felony child molestation charges.
Four of them have been convicted, one is awaiting trial, two are wanted in other countries and one has died.