A Catholic priest from Yuma pleaded guilty Tuesday to attempted child molestation and is facing at least five years in prison.
The Rev. Juan Guillen, a former associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Yuma, pleaded guilty in Yuma County Superior Court to two counts of attempted child molestation in connection with allegations that he abused altar boys. Guillen is the third priest who has worked in the Catholic Diocese of Tucson to be convicted on sexual misconduct charges since March 28, bringing bad news to the diocese as it prepares for Easter this Sunday.
Guillen, 59, is in the Yuma County Jail and is expected to be sentenced May 8, said Roger Nelson, chief criminal deputy for the Yuma County Attorney’s Office. Nelson refused further comment on the case, which was pleaded down to significantly fewer charges from what Guillen had been facing.
The priest, who is from Mexico, faced 13 felony charges before the plea agreement. The charges related to four victims all young men who were parishioners at the church.
Guillen was arrested and jailed on 12 felony charges in August. Prosecutors said he had abused three boys, including two brothers, by plying them with games and frozen treats. He was released in October after parishioners from his church posted 10 percent of his $108,023 bond amount.
But Guillen was locked up again Saturday when he was re-arrested on an additional charge connected to a fourth victim in the case, Nelson said. Nelson said the victim was a boy who said he was molested by Guillen in 1999, when the boy was 11.
“The truth is very sad and very painful. Our whole diocese is profoundly saddened by the suffering of victims and by Rev. Guillen’s failure to live up to his calling,” Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas wrote in a letter to parishioners Tuesday.
Tucson attorney Lynne M. Cadigan, who is representing the victims in the Guillen case, said the young men and their families are most hurt by the alienation they are feeling by the devoutly Catholic Yuma community.
“Many of the Catholics in that community still don’t believe that Father Guillen is a criminal,” Cadigan said. “The parishioners posted Father Guillen’s bond. Many, many people in the parish still do not believe it’s true.”
Two other priests who worked in the Tucson diocese are facing prison time for sexual misconduct with minors.
The Rev. Thomas P. Purcell, who was convicted in absentia, is in an Illinois jail awaiting transfer to Pima County, where he is facing up to life in prison for sexually abusing a South Tucson boy in the early 1980s.
The Rev. JulÃan Sanz, former pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Douglas, this month pleaded guilty in a Bisbee courtroom to two counts of sexual abuse. He will be sentenced next month.