DC priest loses appeal of sexual abuse convictions

D.C’s Court of Appeals has rejected the appeal of Urbano Vasquez, the D.C. priest who was convicted in 2019 of sexually abusing children.

Vazquez was convicted of four counts of sexual abuse of two children — one 13 years old at the time; the other, 9 — who were parishioners of his at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Church, in Northwest, between 2015 and 2017. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Vazquez’s appeal centered on the testimony of Dr. Stephanie Wolf, an expert on child sex abuse.  Vazquez’s lawyers argued Wolf’s testimony crossed a line by opining about the credibility of the two girls, something all sides agreed she couldn’t testify about. Vazquez’s attorney  also claimed Wolf spoke about the concept of grooming sex-abuse victims, something that wasn’t an issue for both victims in Vazquez’s case.

The three-judge panel rejected both arguments, ruling that the part of Wolf’s testimony that was the subject of the appeal was in answer to questions that Vazquez’s own lawyer asked her during cross-examination about the characteristics of false accusations of sexual abuse. The panel also ruled that the subject of grooming was relevant in one of the cases.

Vazquez was also convicted in a separate trial last November of groping a woman at the church. He was sentenced to another 180 days.

The D.C. Court of Appeals is the equivalent of a state supreme court, and is the highest court for the District of Columbia.


WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

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