Former Passaic priest is found guilty of luring in case involving teen parishioner
By Kibret Markos
June 28, 2016
|Jose Lopez, left, in court on Tuesday, June 28, 2016, with attorney is James Porfido.|
A former Passaic priest faces up to 10 years in prison after being convicted Tuesday of sex charges in a case in which he was accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl, though he was acquitted of the most serious charge against him.
Jose Lopez, 37, showed no emotion as a jury in Superior Court in Paterson found him guilty of luring, child endangerment and criminal sexual contact. The panel found him not guilty of attempted sexual assault.
Passaic County Sheriff's Officers escorted Lopez out of the courtroom after Judge Sohail Mohammed revoked his bail and ordered him held at the county jail until his sentencing on Nov. 18.
Some of Lopez's supporters, who filled half of the courtroom, burst into tears and comforted each other after the verdict.
Lisa Squitieri, a Passaic County chief assistant prosecutor, said she was pleased with the verdict but did not comment further.
Defense attorney James Porfido said he was “shocked at the verdict, based on what the evidence was.” Porfido also did not comment further.
Prosecutors said Lopez took a 14-year-old girl into his private living quarters at the St. Mary's Church on Market Street, sat the girl on his lap and touched her inappropriately.
Another former priest at the church testified that the girl told him Lopez placed her on his lap and tried to rape her but that she ran out. The priest also testified that Lopez admitted to him that he took the girl into his living quarters.
The girl's mother testified that Lopez told her he “went too far” with her daughter. The mother said Lopez told her that police were investigating, and asked her not to say anything bad about him if authorities contacted her.
Lopez, meanwhile, denied that he touched the girl in a sexual manner. He also called seven character witnesses who testified that he was a good priest and a trustworthy person.
Porfido said during the trial that it was not unusual for church members to go into Lopez's living quarters, and not unusual for Lopez to hug or kiss many of them, which he did publicly.
Lopez often hugged or kissed the alleged victim in the presence of her mother, and none of the interaction was sexual, Porfido said.
Luring, the most serious charge, is a second-degree offense that carries a sentence of five to 10 years in prison. Lopez also could be subject to registration requirements under Megan's Law.