A Catholic priest, facing criminal charges and a lawsuit alleging that he sexually abused a teenage boy, is now charged with attempting to hire someone to kill the youth.
The Rev. John M. Fiala was in the Dallas County, Texas, jail on Tuesday, charged with one count of criminal solicitation to commit capital murder, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety and the jail’s website. He also is charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. His bail totals $700,000.
Fiala, 52, of Dallas, was out on bond on other sexual assault charges involving the youth, now 18, when he allegedly attempted to negotiate the boy’s murder, said Tom Rhodes, the teen’s attorney.
He was arrested last week after he offered an undercover agent with the Texas Department of Public Safety $5,000 to kill the teen, according to department spokeswoman Lisa Block.
“This guy,” Edwards County Sheriff Don Letsinger said, “is an evil man.”
The youth met Fiala in 2007, according to Rhodes. The attorney said the priest started “grooming him,” buying him gifts including a computer and a car. In early 2008, when the boy was 16, under the guise of providing private catechism lessons, Fiala “gained access to him and began to sexually abuse him once or twice a month, including on church grounds,” Rhodes said.
At the time, Fiala was administrator of Sacred Heart of Mary in Rocksprings, Texas, which is in Edwards County. The alleged abuse occurred in two counties — Edwards and Howard — and included the youth’s rape at gunpoint, the attorney said.
Fiala allegedly threatened to kill the youth if he told anyone — threats he repeated in daily text messages, Rhodes said, and Fiala also threatened to kill himself, telling the teen they would “go to heaven together.”
The teen, after struggling with the abuse, told a school counselor, who notified authorities, Rhodes said. He filed suit in April against Fiala, as well as the archdioceses of San Antonio, Texas, and Omaha, Nebraska — where Fiala was before Texas — and Fiala’s religious order, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, the attorney said.
A hearing on the lawsuit was held Monday, he said. The Omaha diocese had argued it should be sued in Nebraska rather than Texas. The judge rejected that argument, Rhodes said.
“I think he’s cooked his goose now,” Letsinger said of Fiala. “We know that pedophiles sometimes threaten their victims to keep them quiet. But this is kind of an older victim, and you wonder sometimes why they wouldn’t come forward. … I can see now the evil in this guy is pretty bad.”