Friends Testify on Behalf of Passaic Priest Accused in Sex Case
By Ben Horowitz
June 23, 2016
|The Rev. Jose Lopez (Passaic County prosecutor)|
Friends and relatives of a Passaic priest accused of inappropriately touching and kissing a 14-year-old girl spoke on his behalf during his trial Wednesday, depicting him as a moral and caring person, according to an account in The Record.
As reported by The Star-Ledger, the Rev. Jose Lopez, now 37, was charged in 2013 with luring the girl to his church residence and kissing her. He is charged with attempted sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, luring and child endangerment, The Record said.
Seven character witnesses testified on Lopez' behalf in Superior Court in Paterson, including church member Cindy Negrete, who said she had known Lopez "a long time" and called him "an amazing person ... I know he would never, ever do something like this," The Record reported.
Gloria Shope, a retired school administrator, said she had known Lopez at a Morris County church she attended, according to the newspaper. "He is a loyal friend, trustworthy and very responsible, caring and one of the holiest priests I know," she said.
Witnesses for the prosecution testified previously in the trial that the girl told them Lopez tried to rape her and admitted he "went too far," The Record said.
Lopez was a parochial vicar, essentially an assistant pastor, at St. Mary's Assumption and St. Nicholas churches in Passaic, Richard Sokerka, a spokesman for the Diocese of Paterson, told The Star-Ledger when Lopez was arrested in 2013.
The 14-year-old girl was a parishioner at St. Mary's, Passaic County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Holmsen said shortly after the arrest.
Lopez lured the girl to his personal living space and began to advise her about some personal issues with which she was struggling, Holmsen said.
While sitting with the girl on a couch, Lopez allegedly placed her on his lap and kissed her, Holmsen said. She attempted to escape several times, but Lopez pulled the girl back to the couch, the assistant prosecutor said.
The girl was able to get away eventually after Lopez fell to the floor, Holmsen said.
Lopez has maintained his innocence in the case.