Sheriff deputy accused of shaking down Roman Catholic priest

December 29, 2009

Father Geronimo Cuevas


A San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s deputy has filed a civil claim seeking an unspecified amount of money against a Roman Catholic priest whom he said emotionally traumatized him during an undercover sting operation.

Claiming personal injuries, Sheriff’s Deputy John Franklin filed a civil claim against a Roman Catholic priest he arrested in 2007 for lewd conduct in a public place near Avila Beach. Franklin claims he suffers “mental and emotional distress including feelings of anger, rage, disgust, revulsion and embarrassment as a result of the despicable and oppressive behavior” of the former assistant pastor of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Nipomo.

“It is not so much monetary as a position of principal he is seeking. My client is making a statement that this is not acceptable behavior,” said James R. Murphy, the deputy’s attorney.

Church officials, their attorneys and the priest’s attorney contend Franklin is attempting to strong-arm the priest and the church for monetary gain.

“I think John Franklin is just looking for money,” said Thomas Riordan, vicar for temporalities for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey, which includes San Luis Obispo County. “We continue to be surprised by his actions.”

On July 18, 2007, Franklin was working undercover at the area around Pirate’s Cove, a nude beach with a reputation as a hook-up spot for homosexuals, when he spotted the priest, Geronimo Cuevas, standing in the brush rubbing his genitals through his shorts.

“I asked him (Cuevas), ‘What have you got over there,” Franklin said in the arrest report. “With his right hand he motioned for me to come towards me and he stated, ‘Touch me.’”

“I took two steps towards him asking him, ‘What did you say?’ He reached out with his right hand and touched my genitals,” Franklin said in the report.

Franklin then informed Cuevas, who claimed he was unemployed and living in Las Vegas, that he was under arrest for sexual battery and lewd acts.

Cuevas was convicted in 2008 of two misdemeanor counts of lewd conduct in a public place, ordered to take an AIDS awareness course and placed on three years probation. The church also stripped the fallen priest of his “faculties” (permission to perform church duties).

“My client (Franklin) was ordered to do patrol duty there,” Murphy said. “While he was minding his own business, he was grabbed by a priest.”

Following Cuevas’ conviction, Murphy sent a letter to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey stating his client’s plans to seek monetary damages for injuries incurred during the arrest.

“A demand was made upon the diocese and refused,” said attorney for the Diocese of Monterey, Paul Gaspari of the San Francisco-based Tobin and Tobin law firm. “I think it was a claim that had no foundation in law or fact.”

Murphy said he wrote the diocese a letter at the time because he assumed Cuevas was still a priest. Later, he was informed that Cuevas was no longer performing priestly duties. He contends that, due to past transgressions, attorneys for the church should not be discussing his client’s case.

“The attorney for the diocese is a rude and tasteless individual,” Murphy said. “With the past cover-ups of indecent conduct, he should mind his own business.”

Both James McKiernan, attorney for Cuevas, as well as Gaspri contend that the case has no merit and, because of the Fireman’s Rule, Franklin has no legal standing to seek damages.

California’s Fireman’s Rule bars lawsuits by police officers and firefighters for collecting on damages that occur in the course of their duties, even when there is negligence by another party.

Two of the precedent-setting cases that form the basis for the Fireman’s Rule involving law enforcement cases occurred in San Luis Obispo County.

In 1982, San Luis Obispo police officer and ex-county supervisor, Jerry Lenthall, filed an injury claim against an assailant who shot him. The case was dismissed under the Fireman’s Rule.

In 1999, a psychiatric patient shot Atascadero Police Officer William Tilley. Tilley’s attorney, Eric Parkinson, then filed suit against the man’s psychiatrist, claiming negligent care. Again, the case was dismissed because of the Fireman’s Rule.

“In a nutshell, firemen get burned, dog catchers get bitten, police get shot and vice cops get groped,” McKiernan says in court documents. “A person, like the defendant, specifically hired to encounter and combat particular dangers is owed no independent tort duty by the party who created the dangers.”

Murphy’s rebuttal is that in some cases of intentional criminal activity the rule has been overridden.

“Just because you are on duty, someone has a right to grab your scrotum and penis?” Murphy asked. “How much has the diocese spent paying out claims of sexual abuse by priests and they dump Cuevas?”

In the past, Franklin has filed numerous workers’ compensation claims for incidents such as slipping down an embankment and multiple exposures to blood and toxic mold, according to court documents. However, he has not filed a workers’ compensation claim or received medical assistance regarding the Pirates Cove incident.

“This is the type of lawsuit that gives the judicial system and lawyers a bad name” McKiernan said. “This is a case when the ranting, raving, threatening and blustering is over, the Fireman’s Rule will kick it out of court.”

Another bone of contention centers around why Franklin has continued to serve as an armed sheriff’s deputy when he states in his civil claim that he suffers from daily feelings of anger and rage.

“We have programs available to our staff suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after highly special incidents,” said Rob Bryn, spokesman for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department, who said because of personnel privacy issues he was not permitted to say if Franklin informed the sheriff’s department of his alleged emotional injuries.

“If someone is allegedly suffering some type of emotional distress, tell someone and we would assist them.”

Tess TruHart

I find Jim McKiernan to be a highly competant & respected attorney. Gordo, are you one of Jim’s competitor’s? I have never seen a “pimply faced young attorney” in his office. Everyone there is very professional & well qualified. Why criticize McKiernan, he’s just doing his job.

Joe Public

A little too bitter or jealous, Gordo?

Or friend of the clownish attorney Murphy or disgraced sheriff?


Jim McKiernan is I believe, currently a family man with school age children. The last jury duty I served, Jim was working the room with skill and grace, let the past be past, his former antics have little relevance to priest/policeman cruising injury lawsuits .


We obviously have a lunatic running around with a badge and a gun. Get him off the streets before he causes a “real” law suit. We need a citizens review board, NOW.

Tess TruHart

Nancy, you are sooo correct! He needs to be “retired” ASAP, or put on desk duty.

Joe Public

“The path of the righteous lawyer McKiernan is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men and mindless bloggers.

Blessed is McKiernan who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children; and I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers and you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”


It’s new years eve and hopefully the moderator is drunk enough to let this one fly it’s a repeat from a response to “why does this nut still get payed to carry a gun,,,,,,,,,,,,,!

Hey it’s new years and to put the budget in place, maybe they figure, he is an asset and not and ash*le, if he plugs someone he gets off, on an insanity plea and they don’t have to feed and cloth the alleged perpetrator, makes since to me cause, I’m on a budget too! Prison’s are to full, goes back to the old days of shoot first and ask summary questions later!

P.S. I am not in favor of this nut being on the force, anyone who would file a lawsuit for monetary gain without damages,(not a drop of blood, broken bones, etc,). Is a disgrace to the force, of at least half are good soldiers, I hope! I bet they think he’s a “wimp” and the chese is kinda sliding that way, maybe he enticed the old reptile, in the first place, his word against a Catholic priest, who has begotten a very bad reputation from other Catholic priests.


MOET&CHANDON white star champagne Old Vine Zinfandel (from up nort) getting ready to breathe____ VIVA GRAPPA!!!!!!!!!!!

tonight only



Cheseburger …Much agreed! Why oh why is this guy still on the force?!

And why oh why was he standing so close to get fondled? His lawyer actually said.” while minding is own business he was grabbed by a priest…scrotum and penis! OMG! LMAO!

What a sad case.


Hahhaah , Franklin was just minding his own business when he approached a man who was masturbating and walked up close enough to get himself fondled. I wonder what happened to his police training? Maybe he intentionally forgot about it .

Tess TruHart

It’s amazing to me if this guy even passed a “psych test”…No way was he injured! Officers must be “fit” for all sorts of duty, obviously, this guy John Franklin is, at best a ROOKIE & at worst a GOLDBRICK. Wonder if he was hired on Sheriff Hedge’s watch??? What a bunch of incompetants! He’s paid very well to do a job, others do much tougher jobs every day. Who’s to say the Priest wasn’t “set up”? As I recall, the others that were nabbed in that “sting” had THEIR professions kept secret, but the Priest was NOT given that courtesy.

fat chance

How does a guy like that get on the sheriff department, don’t they have to take some kind of mental fitness test. Imagine a cop having to see something that’s disturbing, it’s really hard to believe that could happen :-)


You just took the words right outta my mouth.


Email me and I will fix your link use this link


Do I dare look? ””, hum??

OK I got curious….

Looks like George altered the link, it’s by request only!


I have no luck at all, 404


Cops are friends with lawyers and all secretly want, and/or to be like one, it’s like the step up the ladder. This cop was in no way injured and has no right to any monetary compensation regardless of any fireman’s rule. It’s a gross misuse of our courts, which should be getting to the bottom of the recent “huge money” fraudulent activities, sometime near the end of the next decade,so here we are now watching this joke between to jokers, tie up our courts with this bullsh*t! It is news worthy though, just because the whole thing is as stupid as stupid get’s!


This is the second BS lawsuit for this family. A few years back, their kid was playing, unattended by his parents, and he fell into a fire ring at Nacimiento Lake.The kid got burned to some extent. They sued the Monterey Parks or whoever owns the lake. It looks as though they aren’t just happy sucking off the government tit for a job, they want to find anybody with deep pockets and give them the business too. The sad saga of the SLOSO just goes on and on.When the leadership stinks, it all flows downhill like a big steaming pile in the county’s front yard.