On Nov. 29, a former Catholic priest went on trial for two counts of misdemeanor sex abuse. The non-jury trial ended with a DC Superior Court judge finding him guilty of one of the two counts.
The victim was raised with a reverence for priests, the prosecutor said in her opening statement. A life-long Catholic, she attended a Northwest, DC parish near her home. There, she met the defendant, Urbano Vasquez, a priest who she learned was from Mexico just like her. He presided over a mass of the present body for her late husband.
In the Spring of 2017, the victim went to church for confession. Vasquez heard her confession.
“What happened… during that sacred interaction was a sexual assault,” the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor alleged that the defendant touched the victim’s breast over her clothing on two occasions during the interaction in question.
The victim said she thought it was an accident at first. She said she backed up from Vasquez, but he allegedly touched her breast in a similar manner again. She had wanted to say more during the confession but felt too uncomfortable to continue.
“I just wanted to run away,” she said on the witness stand.
In November 2018, the victim told another priest from the same parish about the alleged incident. This priest contacted law enforcement on her behalf, D.C. Witness previously reported. She also told her mother on the same day of the alleged incident. Her mother told her to stay away from Vasquez, the victim said.
Vasquez has since been convicted of three counts of second-degree child sex abuse and one count of misdemeanor sex abuse. He was sentenced to a total of 15 years for these offenses. The two counts of misdemeanor sex abuse for which the defendant was put on trial on Nov. 29 were initially part of a seven-count indictment in this case.
“My faith is not in priests, my faith is in God,” she said.
The victim’s mother and the priest who the victim came to also took the stand. During closing arguments, defense attorney David Ritcher pointed out how both of these witnesses are only testifying to what they were told by the victim, rather than their first-hand observations. He argued that the evidence was not enough to satisfy the burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Judge Juliet McKenna ultimately concluded that the evidence was only strong enough to find the defendant guilty of one of two misdemeanor sex abuse counts. Parties then proceeded to sentence Vasquez and the victim returned to give an impact statement.
“Why did he hurt me when I was in pain already,” she asked. She said the question weighed deeply on her soul, though she knows it cannot be answered in this forum.
Judge McKenna imposed the maximum sentence of 180 days, noting the position of authority Vasquez was in at the time of the offense.
Vasquez is currently in the custody of DC’s Department of Corrections, where he will serve the 180-day sentence. He will eventually be transferred to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.