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November 25, 2020

Abuse trial of former Mississippi Catholic friar delayed

The trial for a former Catholic Church friar accused of sex abuse at a Mississippi school has been postponed.

Paul West, a former member of the Franciscan religious order, was supposed to face trial on Tuesday for allegations that he sexually molested students in the 1990s at Greenwood’s St. Francis of Assisi School.

No new trial date was immediately set, Kelly Roberts, senior deputy clerk of the Leflore County Circuit Court, told The Greenwood Commonwealth.

West’s court-appointed lawyer, Wallie Stuckey, sought the continuance that was granted. Stuckey said he filed the request because he hadn’t received all the information he’s legally due from the state about the witnesses and evidence that will be presented to the jury.

West was indicted by a Leflore County grand jury in August on two counts of sexual battery and two counts of gratification of lust. The Mississippi attorney general’s office is prosecuting the case.

The former Franciscan is accused of sexually abusing two cousins when they were students at the Catholic elementary school where West worked as a teacher and later principal. The abuse allegedly occurred both on school grounds and on out-of-state school trips.

If convicted, West could spend the rest of his life behind bars. He has pleaded not guilty.

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

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