Witnesses speak on behalf of former Passaic priest facing attempted sex assault charges
By Kibret Markos
June 22, 2016
|The Rev. Jose Lopez in court on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. |
Several relatives and friends of a Passaic priest accused of sexual conduct testified Wednesday on his behalf, describing him as a humble and caring person who strengthened the church he worked for.
“I have known him for a long time and he is an amazing person,” Cindy Negrete, a member of the church, said about the Rev. Jose Lopez as she testified in Superior Court in Paterson. “It’s very sad because he shouldn’t be in this position. I know he would never, ever do something like this.”
Lopez’s cousin, the Rev. Leonardo Lopez, said he has known the 37-year-old Lopez for 34 years, going back to the days when they were young boys growing up in the same neighborhood in their native Colombia.
Related: Girl's mother and former pastor testify in Passaic priest's attempted rape trial
“He is a very good person and I have never seen anything inappropriate in his life,” Leonardo Lopez said.
Gloria Shope, a retired school administrator, said she knew Jose Lopez for years at a Morris County church where she worshiped.
“He is a loyal friend, trustworthy, very responsible, caring, and one of the holiest priests I know,” she said.
In all, defense attorney James Porfido called seven character witnesses who testified that Jose Lopez was a highly regarded and a popular priest. The witnesses said church members were devastated when Lopez was arrested in 2013 and charged with the offense, and that it was a huge loss for the church.
Prosecutors allege that Lopez, 37, took a 14-year-old girl into his private living quarters at the church, sat her on his lap and touched her inappropriately. He is charged with attempted sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, luring and child endangerment.
Witnesses for the prosecution, including the alleged victim’s mother and a former priest at the church, testified earlier that the girl told them Lopez tried to rape her and that he admitted that he went “too far” in his interaction with the girl.
Lopez has insisted that he is innocent and that he did not touch the girl in a sexual manner.
The trial, which opened last week, is scheduled to continue Thursday.