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Former Priest Faces Additional Charges Of Alleged Abuse

Oct 12, 2002 | AP

A former priest already charged with sexual misconduct now faces additional charges involving a different boy, prosecutors said Friday.

Jason E. Sigler, who sporadically served as a priest in Michigan, is charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. A 40-year-old Florida man made the allegations after reading a story about an accused priest in which Sigler's name was mentioned, Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan said.

Duggan said the man, who was 13 at the time of the alleged misconduct, claims Sigler performed oral sex on him in 1975, while he was at the priest's residence in River Rouge.

Sigler, 64, who now lives in New Mexico, already faces four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct on accusations he performed oral sex on a boy younger than 13. He also faces four second-degree counts on allegations he abused the same boy between the ages of 13 and 16.

Sigler, who faces up to life in prison if convicted, voluntarily left the priesthood in 1982. He was born in River Rouge.

Duggan said the new case is much stronger than the previous one because Sigler left the state a year after the alleged abuse.

In the first case, Sigler is accused of molesting a 12-year-old boy in the boy's River Rouge home in the 1960s. Authorities say the abuse happened while the boy's parents were asleep in the home. Sigler was a distant relative of the boy.

Sigler has asked that those charges be dropped because he says they don't fall within the statute of limitations. His attorney has said he didn't change his permanent residence from Michigan to New Mexico until at least until 1976, a decade after the first incidents allegedly took place.

Duggan said that Sigler's latest accuser is a married firefighter who is "extremely credible."

"I think we have a decent chance to get a conviction on the first case," he said. "But our second case is much stronger."

Sigler pleaded guilty to a 1983 sex charge, and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe paid at least $13 million to settle more than 20 sex abuse lawsuits against him. Genesee County prosecutors also are investigating allegations made against Sigler, who served in parishes there in the 1970s.

Sigler is one of four Roman Catholic priests who formerly worked in the area who were charged Aug. 27 with criminal sexual conduct in cases that date from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Earlier this month, Robert Burkholder, 82, was extradited to Michigan from his home in Hawaii, and arraigned on sexual assault charges. The former priest was charged with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

In September, the Rev. Edward Olszewski was bound over for trial in the alleged molestation of a boy more than 30 years ago. Olszewski has maintained his innocence.

At least 30 Catholic priests in Michigan have been removed, suspended or have left their duties since Jan. 1 amid sexual abuse or misconduct allegations. Some of the cases are under review. At least 17 of the cases involved a minor.

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