A D.C. priest has been convicted on charges he sexually assaulted two girls from his parish. Urbano Vazquez was found guilty on all counts in D.C. Superior Court on Thursday, the second day of jury deliberations.
Vazquez blinked but showed no emotion as the jury foreman announced the verdict. Vazquez was found guilty on three felony counts of second-degree child sexual assault with aggravating circumstances, and one misdemeanor count of sexual abuse of a child.
He faces a possible maximum sentence of 45 years and 270 days when he’s sentenced by Superior Court Judge Juliet McKenna on Nov. 22.
Vazquez was arrested last year after he was accused of groping and kissing two girls at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Church in Northwest D.C. between 2015 and 2017. One was 13 at the time of the incidents; the other, 9.
Prosecutors Matt Williams and Sharon Marcus-Kurn had no comment as they left the courtroom.
Defense attorney Robert Bonsib said, “Father Urbano is obviously disappointed by the verdict. When a defendant is facing multiple complainants, and the court permits those to be tried together, it becomes a very difficult matter to defend. … We are hopeful some of the legal issues we raised will give him some relief on appeal.”
He added that Vazquez “was supported throughout this trial by members of Sacred Heart who have known him over the years and see an entirely different Father Urbano than this verdict reflects.”
Ronald Hernandez, who said he was a former altar server at the church and knew Vazquez, said Vazquez was innocent. Hernandez predicted that that would be a rift in the church, between those who supported Vazquez and those who accused him.
Hernandez said he would continue to go to the church, but “instead of making a connection [in] the church, it will cause a greater separation.”
Vazquez’s sister, Adriana Vazquez, also claimed her brother was innocent, and said she found it suspicious that the parents of the two girls waited “years” to make a complaint. She claimed the true motivation of the case was to create prelude for a lawsuit against the church.
‘She’s now blaming herself’
Marcus-Kurn told the jury Wednesday in her closing argument that the 13-year-old girl was embarrassed to tell her mother about the abuse, which included being touched on the thigh during confession. “He put his hand on her leg and caresses. She’s now blaming herself. She’s already scared she won’t be believed,” Marcus-Kurn said.
The 9-year-old girl was inappropriately kissed by Vazquez, the prosecutor said, then later taken into a bathroom and inappropriately touched.
The girl’s mother testified last week that, for an extended period of time, her daughter had been acting strangely, lost her appetite and refused to eat. Eventually, she said, her daughter approached her, distraught, and asked why her trusted priest kissed her on the mouth.
The mother said when she confronted Vazquez and asked him about it, he did not deny the allegation and simply told her that it would not happen again.
Marcus-Kurn said Wednesday that the girls had no reason to lie, and asked the jury to convict Vazquez for “forever changing” the girls’ lives.
Vazquez took the stand in his own defense during the trial and denied all of the allegations.
In March, he was offered a plea deal that could have left him facing a maximum of 11 years and three months behind bars, but refused, leaving himself open to the higher maximum.
Bonsib told the jury in closing arguments Wednesday that “the evidence in this case doesn’t add up,” claiming that the 13-year-old victim changed her story.
Another woman, now 20, also testified during the trial that Vazquez kissed her when she was 16. Vazquez will be tried separately in that case.
WTOP’s Michelle Basch, Rick Massimo and Nick Iannelli contributed to this report.