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Orange County

Accused O.C. Priest Put on Leave

Dominic Nguyen is suspected of acquiring child porn. Other sex abuse cases await.

September 16, 2003|William Lobdell | Times Staff Writer

Bishop of Orange Tod D. Brown placed a Roman Catholic priest accused of downloading child pornography on two years of administrative leave Monday, while delaying a decision on two other Orange County clerics until authorities complete a sexual misconduct investigation.

In following the recommendation of his Sexual Misconduct and Oversight Review Board, Brown said Father Dominic Nguyen would be taken out of active ministry for at least two years and participate in individual and group counseling.

Nguyen was investigated last year by police in Idaho, where he had been sent on a rehabilitation assignment after having a relationship with a woman.

Idaho authorities said a church computer technician found child pornography on the priest's computer in January 2002. The Twin Falls County prosecutor declined to file charges after a five-month investigation. Upon his return to Orange County, Nguyen was given a restricted desk job at diocesan headquarters.

Lee Bashforth, director of the Orange County chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said he wondered how the bishop could have cleared Nguyen under the diocese's zero tolerance for sexual abuse but still put him on leave.

"Obviously, there's some smoke there if they put them on leave -- unless the move is just to appease the victims community," Bashforth said.

Brown said he'd wait to decide on the other two priests until the criminal justice process moves forward. Father Cesar Salazar of St. Joseph Church in Santa Ana is under FBI investigation for allegedly downloading child pornography. Father Gerardo Tanilong of Our Lady of Guadalupe-Delhi Church, also in Santa Ana, was arrested in July on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.

Diocesan handling of the Nguyen case sparked the June resignation of the review board's only molestation victim. He said the church had failed to follow its zero-tolerance policy.

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