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Mississippi trial delayed for friar accused of sex abuse

By The Associated Press

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) — A trial has been postponed until April for a former Franciscan friar accused of molesting students in the 1990s at a Catholic school in Mississippi.

Paul West had been scheduled for trial in February. His case was delayed so he could undergo a mental evaluation, The Greenwood Commonwealth reported, citing dockets on the local district attorney’s website.

A Leflore County grand jury indicted West in August on two counts of sexual battery and two counts of gratification of lust. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

This is the second time the case has been postponed since West pleaded innocent in September.

West’s attorney, Wallie Stuckey, said in November that he had not received all the information he’s legally due from the Mississippi attorney general’s office about witnesses and evidence.

The indictments accuse West of molesting cousins Joshua Love and La Jarvis Love when they were students at St. Francis of Assisi School in Greenwood. West worked as a teacher and later as principal at the elementary school.

West also faces a charge in Wisconsin of second-degree sexual assault of a child.

The Associated Press reported in 2019 that the Catholic order of Franciscan Friars settled sex abuse cases by secretly paying Joshua Love and La Jarvis Love $15,000 each and requiring them to keep silent about their claims. The cash payments to the men, who are Black, were far less than what other Catholic sex abuse survivors have typically received since the church’s abuse scandal erupted in the United States in 2002.

“They felt they could treat us that way because we’re poor and we’re Black,” Joshua Love told the AP about the settlements he and his cousin received.

An official with the Franciscan Friars order denied the men’s race or poverty had anything to do with the size of the settlements.

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