DC priest accused of touching 3 girls waives hearing; case sent to grand jury

WASHINGTON — A 46-year-old priest accused of inappropriately touching three teenage girls at Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church has waived a preliminary hearing, and his case is being sent to a grand jury.

The Rev. Urbano Vazquez answered quietly Monday in D.C. Superior Court when a judge asked whether he wanted to bypass the probable cause hearing, in which a detective typically lays out a sketch of the prosecution’s evidence against a defendant.

Vazquez is currently charged with one count, related to the first girl’s accusation. Other charges are pending.

Vazquez’s attorney Robert Bonsib told Judge Juliet McKenna that his client would waive the hearing, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Williams said the case would be sent a D.C. grand jury.

Outside of court, prosecutors declined to say whether they had offered a plea arrangement to Vazquez.

Vazquez is accused of inappropriately touching three teenage parishioners in May 2015 at the church. He has denied the claims.

The Archdiocese of Washington said it became aware of the first allegation against Vazquez in late October of this year.

When Vazquez was arrested last month, the archdiocese said in a statement that this was the first allegation of sexual abuse against Vazquez, and that they removed him from the ministry and suspended his priestly duties.

Since the first report, the archdiocese said that additional allegations against Vazquez have been reported.

In its review, the archdiocese determined that the pastor of the parish Moises Villalta “failed to follow appropriate protocols related to reporting the allegations.” The archdiocese removed Villalta as pastor, and it placed the child protection coordinator on administrative leave.

Vazquez is free on bond until trial.

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this report.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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