Former Santa Fe priest Balizan allowed to await trial from home

July 4—Longtime Santa Fe priest Daniel Balizan, who faces federal charges of child sexual abuse, will await trial at his home in Springer, a judge has ruled.

Federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing in Albuquerque on Monday ordered Balizan released and placed under house arrest with electronic monitoring.

Balizan, who for a decade served as pastor of the Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic community in Santa Fe before being fired by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in 2022, is accused of inciting a minor with intent to engaging in sexual activity during a relationship prosecutors allege he continued with a 15-year-old boy in 2012.

Balizan was arrested June 29 in Springer.

Federal prosecutors had argued that Balizan should be placed in a halfway house ahead of trial, writing the weight of evidence in the case “favors detention.”

Balizan, who pleaded not guilty, faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison if found guilty.

That Balizan, who has never spent time in police custody, incurs such a heavy sentence gives him “nothing but inducement to flee,” prosecutors wrote, suggesting a halfway house as a ” fair resolution”.

Balizan’s potential flight risk could not “be mitigated through the use of location monitoring,” prosecutors argued, because such technology would only alert pre-trial personnel and the court after his departure.

Prosecutors argued the evidence against Balizan was “overwhelming and substantial”, including thousands of text messages between him and the alleged victim, who is referred to in court documents as “John Doe”.

Attorney Dan Cron, who represents Balizan, said his client was “not a leak risk” in a phone interview on Tuesday.

“We have known for six months the likelihood of these federal charges,” Cron said. “He stayed and he is facing the allegations.”

US Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing ordered Balizan in custody of her brother Tony Balizan, with electronic monitoring

Daniel Balizan had been a priest at the church in Santa Fe from 2012 until August 2022, when he was removed from his post. Since then, he has lived in Springer and worked at a small motel he co-owns, according to court records.

Prosecutors noted that “it was precisely his close ties to the community and his position within the Church” that would have allowed him access to the alleged victim and Balizan “is the latest example of a sexual predator who managed to assimilate and go largely unnoticed in the community.”

In a request for Balizan’s pretrial detention, prosecutors included text messages they said Balizan sent to the alleged victim in 2012.

The text messages “are indicative of classic sexual grooming behavior” and “represent a gross abuse of his position of trust to coerce John Doe into sexual acts,” prosecutors wrote.

On September 4, 2012, prosecutors claim Balizan wrote, “…I’m paranoid…I don’t want my name all over the papers or my reputation ruined because I fell in love with a minor.”

Prosecutors allege another text later that month included this passage: “As I told you before, I only feel bad because of your age…if you were 18 or older, I wouldn’t feel bad at all because I love you.”

In a third text from the time, Balizan reportedly wrote, “…I want to be true to my promise of celibacy, but I wish to be more intimate with you.”

In early September 2012, prosecutors allege that Balizan used the teenage victim “to perform sexual acts on her” in Santa Maria de la Paz.

“He also encouraged John Doe to delete his text messages,” prosecutors wrote. “There’s just no question that [Balizan] knew John Doe was underage when he engaged him in sexual activity.”

The alleged victim has filed a lawsuit against Balizan seeking damages for assault and “intentional infliction of emotional distress” related to the alleged sexual abuse that occurred in 2012.

As a result of Balizan’s alleged abuse, the alleged victim – who now lives in Tennessee – suffered “psychological injuries, emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of self-esteem, depression and other damages,” according to the lawsuit. “His trust in religion and in authority figures was seriously shaken.”

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