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Priest's Trial Set To Go

Aug 24, 2004 | San Francisco Examiner After more than a year of delays, trial proceedings will begin this week for a former Daly City Catholic priest on charges that he molested a 12-year-old girl in the mid-1990s.

Following months of legal wrangling, efforts to have the charges dropped against 50-year-old Jose Superiaso on the argument that the constitutional statute of limitations had expired went by the wayside Monday.

Appearing in San Mateo Superior Court in Redwood City in a red jumpsuit, with his head bowed, the former St. Andrew Catholic Church priest listened quietly to Judge John Runde.

"Based on the chronology of reporting, the age of the complainant at the time the demurer [motion to dismiss] is overruled," Runde said, citing a similar case recently decided in Los Angeles.

Superiaso faces 24 counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under age 14 between July 1994 and November 1995. Jury selection for his trial is scheduled to begin later this week.

If convicted, he could face anywhere from 3 to 54 years in prison, according to deputy district attorney Sharon Henri.

"Where there are very serious charges and substantial incarceration, it's not uncommon for cases to be delayed so both parties have ample time to prepare," Henri said. "And our position is that now both sides have had ample time."

Now 21, the alleged victim, whose name has been concealed to protect her identity, told police Superiaso began making sexual advances on her in the summer of 1994, according to court records.

A recent immigrant from Superiaso's home country, the girl told authorities she did not report the abuse because she thought no one would believe her and also because Superiaso threatened to send her back to the Philippines.

Police convinced the victim to lure Superiaso, then working on a Native American reservation for the archdiocese in Santa Fe, N.M., back to Daly City in the summer of 2003 on the pretext that she wanted to talk with him.

He was subsequently arrested and brought to a police station, where authorities say he confessed to an ongoing sexual relationship with the girl in the 1990s.

Ordained in the Philippines, Superiaso served at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Belmont and Our Lady of the Pillar Church in Half Moon Bay before moving to St. Andrew. At the time of his arrest, he was associate rector at St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe.

Superiaso does not have a record of any other sexual abuse allegations. He has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of this case and remains in custody on $2.5 million bail. While incarcerated, Superiaso has written a book about his experiences on the reservation and in jail.

Regardless of the outcome of this criminal case, Superiaso will also face a civil trial now being prepared.

Seated in the courtroom with a small Bible in hand, retiree George Hubbard, who has known Superiaso for more than a decade as a "warm and friendly" priest who played guitar and sang with parishioners at the Immaculate Heart, says he finds it hard to conceive that Superiaso could have done such a thing.

"It was a shock when I read about it in the paper," Hubbard said. "It was hard to believe."

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