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Sunday, July 22, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor arrested for sexual battery

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. —- An assistant pastor at a Catholic church was arrested for investigation of sexual battery after he allegedly groped an undercover sheriff's deputy near a private beach, authorities said Friday.

The Rev. Geronimo Enrique Cuevas, 52, who was arrested on Wednesday, also was booked on suspicion of soliciting a lewd act from an adult in a public place, said San Luis Obispo County sheriff's Sgt. Brian Hascall.

The pastor was released on $2,000 bail.

Cuevas allegedly "grabbed the crotch area" of a sheriff's deputy working undercover on foot trails leading to Pirate's Cove, a secluded private beach known for nude sunbathing several miles south of San Luis Obispo, Hascall said.

Cuevas had been working at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Nipomo, part of the Diocese of Monterey. He was placed on administrative leave after the arrest, the diocese said.

"He no longer has any faculties to function as a priest," the diocese said in a statement Friday.

A message left with Cuevas' office was not returned.

Deputies regularly conduct undercover operations in and around the beach. Two other arrests were made during Wednesday's operation, officials said.