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Feds arrest former Santa Fe priest in Child Sex Abuse case

feds arrest former santa fe priest in child sex abuse case
Luis Sánchez Saturno/New Mexican file photo

A Roman Catholic priest removed from a Santa Fe parish nearly a year ago amid a misconduct investigation was arrested Thursday on federal charges accusing him of enticement of a minor with the intent to engage in sexual activity.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico and the FBI field office in Albuquerque released a joint statement Thursday evening on the arrest of 61-year-old Daniel Balizan in Springer, where he has been living.

Balizan had served as a priest at Santa María de la Paz Catholic Community for about 10 years before he was removed from the post in August 2022. Previously, he served at St. Patrick’s-St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Raton.

He “allegedly used text messages to coerce and entice a minor victim, identified as John Doe in court documents, to engage in sexual activity with him,” the joint statement said.

“Abusing children under the veil of religious authority is an attack on the faith itself,” U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez said in the statement. He vowed to “vigorously pursue justice.”

The Santa Fe Resident Agency of the FBI’s Albuquerque office investigated the case with assistance from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office and the New Mexico Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory, the statement said.

If convicted, Balizan faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe issued a statement on Balizan earlier Thursday, saying the U.S. Attorney’s Office had informed the institution of his arrest in a case connected to child sexual abuse.

Spokeswoman Leslie Radigan wrote, “The Archdiocese of Santa Fe reaffirms its zero tolerance and unwavering dedication to ensuring the safety and well-being of its community members, especially the vulnerable. It emphasizes its ongoing commitment to transparency, accountability, and support for survivors of abuse.”

A Tennessee man filed a lawsuit in October accusing the priest of sexually assaulting him at a local parish a decade ago, when he was 15. Attorney Levi Monagle, who represents the plaintiff, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office also informed his client of Balizan’s arrest in Springer. The criminal charges are tied to his client’s allegations, he said.

An amended civil complaint filed in May in the state’s First Judicial District Court alleges Monagle’s client was groomed by Balizan and abused by the priest in 2012 at Santa María de la Paz. Balizan had established a friendship with the accuser’s mother and positioned himself as a father figure, according to the complaint.

It states the plaintiff’s “trust in religion and in authority figures has been seriously breached. His ability to sustain intimate relationships has been severely harmed. His faith has been badly damaged.”

Monagle said he approved of Balizan’s arrest, and added his client’s lawsuit will move forward after the priest submits a response to the amended complaint.

The Tennessee man’s initial lawsuit was dismissed in January, at the plaintiff’s request, before the priest could make a formal response to the complaint, Monagle said. He sought dismissal of the case because he thought there was a chance the state Legislature would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil complaints alleging child sexual abuse during its session earlier this year. However, Monagle said, the bill that would have affected his client’s claim was unsuccessful.

The attorney said he doesn’t believe the federal criminal case will affect the lawsuit in state District Court.

Tessa DuBerry, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico, did not respond to a message seeking comment on whether the civil case might be delayed by the criminal prosecution.

“Obviously, I have strong reason to believe the veracity of my client’s allegations,” Monagle said. “I’ve seen evidence that supports those allegations, and for all those reasons I think that this is the proper course of action by law enforcement.”

Balizan is being prosecuted as part of the nationwide Project Safe Childhood initiative, according to the joint statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI. The initiative is led by the U.S. Department of Justice and “marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims,” the statement said.

Information about the federal prosecution of Balizan will be available at, according to the statement. However, the indictment against him was not available on the site Thursday evening.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI asked anyone with information related to Balizan’s contact with minors to call 800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip online at

Raul Bujanda, the FBI Special Agent in Charge in Albuquerque, said in the joint statement, “We have and will continue to do everything we possibly can to protect our children from predators who seek to do them harm by abusing their inherent positions of trust.”

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe long has faced allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. It reached a milestone in late December when a federal bankruptcy judge and nearly 400 people who had made claims of sexual abuse — some dating back decades, to when the claimants were children — approved a proposed $121.5 million settlement after years of negotiations.

The settlement called for the creation of a fund to address future claims and a public database of records pertaining to allegations of sexual abuse by clergy on the past 50-plus years.

Authored by Nathan Lederman via Santa Fe New Mexican June 30th 2023

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