DALLAS (AP) â€” A jury has found a former Roman Catholic priest guilty of plotting the death of a man who accused him of sexual abuse.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas County jury of three men and nine women returned its verdict on John M. Fiala Thursday afternoon after a few hoursâ€™ deliberation. Then, testimony began in the penalty phase. Fiala could be sentenced to up to life in prison for solicitation of capital murder.
Prosecutors say Fiala tried to hire a neighborâ€™s brother to kill the man who accused him of abusing him in 2008. Thatâ€™s when the man was 16 and Fiala was the priest at a rural West Texas parish.
The former clergyman was arrested Nov. 18 at his Dallas home and jailed on $700,000 bond. According to court records, he was named in a lawsuit filed by the boyâ€™s family, who accused Fiala of molesting the young man, including twice at gunpoint.
The lawsuit also names the Archdiocese of San Antonio and Archbishop Jose Gomez, alleging the church should have been aware of Fialaâ€™s actions.
That accuser had said Fiala abused him at Fialaâ€™s former parish of Sacred Heart of Mary located in Rocksprings between 2007 and 2008 when the man was 16.
According to information from the Edwards County Sheriffâ€™s Office, Fiala previously set his victim up with an apartment in Big Spring, where the young man reportedly had a girlfriend.
Fialaâ€™s defense attorney argued that the former priest had no true intention of having his accuser killed.
But the man Fiala met with in November 2010 and instructed to kill his accuser for $5,000 was actually an undercover police officer. Their entire conversation was recorded on video and played for the jury on Wednesday.