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Judge Gives Yuma Priest 10-Year Prison Term

Jul 25, 2003 | Yuma Sun

Yuma priest Juan Guillen was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday for a conviction of attempted child molesting.

In addition, Yuma County Superior Court Judge Tom Cole gave lifetime probation to the 59-year-old Guillen, who had been a priest for about 20 years at Immaculate Conception Church. The probation was given for another count of attempted child molesting. Guillen pleaded guilty to both charges in a plea agreement.

Conditions of the probation, which includes 40 hours of community service per month, is to begin after Guillen is released from prison. In addition, Guillen is required to register as a sex offender and pay various fees, including $650 for his court-appointed attorney.

In an Internet statement Thursday, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas announced the beginning of procedures to defrock Guillen. "It is now appropriate for the Diocese of Tucson to begin a canonical process to seek Father Guillen's removal from the clerical state," Kicanas' statement said.

"This is in keeping with our diocesan ‘Guidelines for the Response to and Prevention of Sexual Misconduct’ and with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its protocols that were agreed upon by the bishops of the United States and were approved by the Holy See," the statement stated.

Before announcing his sentence, Cole said it was difficult for him to decide what the sentence should be. He said he considered mitigating factors that included Guillen's lack of a criminal record, the fact that he will be on probation for the rest of his life, the testimony of parishioners who have "unconditional love" for the priest, and "some degree of cooperation" Guillen showed by entering into a plea agreement that spared the victims more trauma.

However, Cole said the mitigating circumstances were more than offset by aggravating factors: The crimes were a "gross violation" of his position of trust as a priest, the emotional harm inflicted on his young victims and families, the long time period during which he committed his crimes dating back to 1984 and the fact that Guillen showed little remorse.

Cole said just before Wednesday's hearing, he received a letter from Guillen in which the priest did express remorse and stated he was sorry for the harm he did to the victims and their families.

Kicanas, in his statement, pointed out the church is addressing the problem. "We will continue to act with strict adherence to the law and our policies," Kicanas stated. "We are implementing our programs of education and screening to do everything that is humanly possible to protect our children from abuse and to provide safe environments.

"We also are seeking to work with all in the community to address the serious societal issue of child abuse," Kicanas stated. He pointed out the allegations against Guillen were reported immediately by the Diocese to law enforcement and it cooperated fully with the investigation. In addition, the Diocese offered assistance to the victims, according to Kicanas.

"This response by the Diocese reflects the learning that has taken place within the Church," he stated.

Kicanas said he will be in Yuma this weekend to celebrate Mass and to pray for healing and reconciliation. He said he is praying for everyone who was affected by "Guillen's wrongdoing."

Yuma police reported that in 1989 Guillen is suspected of fondling a boy in a chapel in Yuma. According to police, Guillen allegedly performed oral sex with the boy five years later. In the same year, 1994, police reported Guillen allegedly fondled another boy but was unsuccessful with sexual activity. However, in the same year, the priest allegedly took another boy to a trailer in the 900 block of 6th Avenue and had a naked massage. Guillen allegedly performed a sex act on the child, according to police

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