Rev. Geronimo Enrique Cuevas

A Catholic priest has been sentenced to three years of probation after he pleaded no contest to groping an undercover male sheriff deputy at a nude beach in California.

Authorities said Rev. Geronimo Enrique Cuevas, 52, was hiding in bushes near a trail leading to the beach at Pirate’s Cove, where they discovered him masturbating.

When a male deputy approached Cuevas, the priest reached out and touched the agent’s genitals, investigators said.

Rev. Geronimo Enrique Cuevas, associate pastor at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Nipomo, has been on administrative leave from his parish while the church investigates the incident, the San Luis Obispo County website reports.

Cuevas entered his plea to misdemeanor charges of engaging in lewd conduct and soliciting another to engage in lewd conduct at San Luis Obispo Superior Court Monday. A judge has ordered him to pay a $750 fine, participate in 40 hours of community service and attend an AIDS education seminar. He is now banned from Pirate’s Cove nude beach.

A representative for the Diocese of Monterey released a brief statement saying, “The Diocese of Monterey has faith in the justice system and in the decision reached as a result of the district attorney’s plea agreement.”

Pirate’s Cove nude beach near San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Local sheriffs conducted a sting last summer after receiving numerous complaints from area residents about people engaging in lewd behavior on trails and bushes in the vicinity of the nude beach. The area is reported to be a common place for “gays” to meet and is often mentioned in “gay” chat rooms. Cuevas was one of three men who were taken into custody at the beach July 18 on sex crime charges.

Shortly following his arrest last year, the Catholic priest originally pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual battery and lewd acts. He changed his plea to no contest this week.

Rev. Cuevas identified himself as a Venezuelan pastor in a June 2001 interview for San Francisco Faith. The article said he visited the sacrament of reconciliation once a month and had confessions every weekend.

“Not many people come to the sacrament of reconciliation, compared to the number of Catholics,” Cuevas said. “I think people in the American society have washed away their feeling of sinfulness. That nothing is sinful now. People in this country tend to minimize their sense of sinfulness. Nothing is a sin.”



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