Closing Arguments in Priest's Molestation Trial
Alleged Victim Manipulated Him, Defense Claims
By Ethan Fletcher
San Francisco Examiner [California]
September 14, 2004
The fate of former Daly City priest Jose Superiaso, arrested last year and accused of 21 counts of child molestation, is now in jurors' hands.
Jurors heard attorneys' closing arguments Monday and began deliberation on a verdict for the 50-year-old priest, accused of committing sexual acts, including intercourse, with a Filipino immigrant girl over the course of one year beginning when the victim was just 12 years old. Superiaso, who allegedly committed the acts from July 1994 until November 1995, could face a maximum of 54 years in prison.
Prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Sharon Henry focused on the now-22-year-old alleged victim's emotional testimony. Known only as Jane Doe to protect her identity, the victim testified that Superiaso performed sexual acts with her once or twice a week over the course of more than a year, ranging from fondling to sexual intercourse.
"The truth in the case is that the defendant took this child and robbed her of her innocence and plunged her into an abyss of shame, fear, anger and unimaginable trauma," Henry told jurors Tuesday afternoon. "Ladies and gentlemen, we will never really know the depths of Jane Doe's pain, but you got a glimpse of it during her testimony when she recounted the despicable acts committed against her by this man -- this man who was a priest."
Henry also stressed Superiaso's admission to the victim in two phone calls, set up and taped by Daly City police, and the priest's own confession to cops after his arrest on July 10, 2003, in which he admitted to having sex with the girl at least 30 times. Superiaso was arrested after the victim arranged a meeting while he was visiting the Peninsula from his then-home in Santa Fe, N.M.
The defense did not dispute that Superiaso committed the sexual acts. Rather, defense attorney Ray Buenaventura called into question the age of the victim at the time of the misconduct.
Buenaventura argued it had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the acts were committed when the victim was a minor. The defense pointed to a taped interview with Daly City police in which the alleged victim became confused as to when exactly the abuse occurred.
Buenaventura denounced the credibility of the alleged victim, bringing up inconsistencies and inaccuracies between her testimony to police and to jurors. He also painted the victim as a greedy aggressor in the relationship, who accepted and asked for numerous gifts from Superiaso over the years, including her first car, a laptop computer and private-school tuition payments.
"Who was the manipulator here? Who was in control?" Buenaventura asked jurors. "She had him wrapped around her little finger is what it was. Isn't that the truth?
"What [Superiaso] said was he was responding to the advances of her," he added. "And he is a man, he's a human being."
Buenaventura became emotional as he recounted the good character and deeds performed by Superiaso over the years, backed up last week by the testimony of numerous character witnesses.
"All these good deeds matter," Buenaventura said. "Father Superiaso has done good his whole life. He's been devoted to helping people wherever he goes, and he still is."
Closing arguments ended late in the day Monday, and jurors will begin deliberation in earnest today.
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