DC priest charged with sex abuse of 3 parishioners seeks separate trials

A D.C. Catholic priest has been indicted on sex abuse charges. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)(Getty Images/iStockphoto/DmitriMaruta)

The D.C. Catholic priest indicted on seven counts of sexually abusing two children and a woman — all parishioners — wants three separate trials, according to his lawyer.

Urbano Vazquez, who was a priest at Shrine of the Sacred Heart, is charged with sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl, a 13-year-old girl and a 33-year-old woman.

In a motion filed in D.C. Superior Court, defense attorney Robert Bonsib said it would be unfair to his client if prosecutors were allowed to try Vazquez in a single trial.

Bonsib told WTOP Vazquez will plead not guilty when he is arraigned Friday.

Although the cases are similar in that all three victims were his parishioners, Bonsib said the incidents happened in substantially different time periods and with different allegations.

Bonsib said in this case, jurors should not be allowed to hear “other crimes evidence,” which could lead them to believe if Vazquez were guilty of one crime, he likely committed others. And, if jurors heard evidence about three similar but different crimes, “the jury may amalgamate the evidence into a single inculpatory mass,” argued Bonsib, citing an earlier case.

In addition, after hearing allegations about Vazquez’s crimes against young girls, “the jury would be left with images of the defendant sexually molesting children,” and convict him of the misdemeanor offenses related to the abuse of the woman.

If convicted of all crimes, Vazquez faces a statutory maximum of 30 years, six months in prison.

In March, Vazquez and his attorney rejected a plea offer to reduced charges, in which he could have faced up to 11 years behind bars.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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