DALLAS (AP) — A jury began deliberating on Thursday the fate of a former Roman Catholic priest accused of plotting the death of a man who accused him of sexual abuse.
John M. Fiala is facing a charge of solicitation of capital murder. Authorities say he tried to hire a neighbor's brother to kill his accuser. That accuser had said Fiala abused him at the ex-priest's rural West Texas parish in 2008 when the man was 16.
Fiala faces up to life in prison if convicted.
The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/LfSaxz ) reported that during closing arguments Thursday, prosecutors urged jurors not to believe Fiala's claims that he told a purported hit man to kill his accuser only because he thought his own life was in danger.
"John Fiala is not a puppet," said prosecutor Brandon Birmingham said. "He is a puppeteer."
Defense attorney Rex Gunter countered that Fiala had no true intentions of having his accuser killed.
Earlier Thursday, Fiala testified that he was told by his neighbor, Scottie Fisher, that the neighbor's brother would likely turn on him if he wasn't convinced the hit was on.
"I knew that if I didn't do this, I'd be the one on the list, marked to be killed, according to what Scottie said," Fiala said.
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.
Prosecutors have told jurors Fiala hired the hit man because he was distraught over a four-count indictment accusing him of sexual abuse, which is still pending in Edwards County.