Priest seeks light sentence, says he was ‘too busy’ to abuse girls
By Neal Augenstein
November 20, 2019
A Catholic priest who faces more than 45 years in prison when he’s sentenced Friday for sexually abusing two girls is maintaining his innocence, telling a judge he “was too busy to do a crazy thing.”
Urbano Vazquez, 47, was found guilty of child sexual abuse with aggravating circumstances for sexually assaulting two girls from his parish — 13 and 9 years old — between 2015 and 2017, while Vazquez was an assistant pastor at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Northwest D.C.
On Friday, Vazquez will be sentenced by Circuit Judge Juliet McKenna, who oversaw his jury trial.
In a pre-sentencing memo, defense attorney Robert Bonsib asked McKenna to consider Vazquez’s lack of previous criminal record, years of service in the religious community, as well as punishment already endured.
The defense’s plea included a nine-page handwritten note from Vazquez to the judge. In the letter, Vazquez detailed his life story: from being born in Mexico, participating in volunteer work and his religious training to being ordained a priest five years ago in Pittsburgh.
After being transferred to Sacred Heart, located at the junction of the Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights neighborhoods, his duties include leading wedding masses, funerals, first communions, confirmations and hearing confessions.
However, Vazquez’s note made no mention of his victims, or the crimes he was convicted of committing.
“Your honor, as you can see, I was too busy to do a crazy thing,” Vazquez wrote.
In contrast, Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Matt Williams said Vazquez is an unrepentant “serial sexual predator.” Williams is seeking a prison sentence of 20 years, six months.
“The defendant’s affect while sexually abusing these children suggests he is a pedophile who is a danger to the community. Each victim testified that when the defendant was touching them, he acted like there was nothing unusual or wrong with what was going on. He did not speak, did not apologize, and did not react. It was as if the victims were there simply to satisfy his repressed, yet powerful, sexual desires.”
Williams said by taking the witness stand in his own defense and not acknowledging criminal behavior, Vazquez added insult to the victims’ injuries.
“He swore that the young girls whose lives he changed forever were liars,” Williams wrote. “It takes a depraved — and dangerously manipulative — person to do that.”
Williams reacted to Vazquez’s denial, calling it “almost comical,” and said only an extended prison sentence would protect the public.
“The defendant cannot be reformed by mental health treatment — he has no diagnosis nor evident need for medication. Instead, the defendant suffers from his commitment to a prideful, self-destructive course where he cannot acknowledge even a scintilla of personal fault,” according to prosecutors.
In the defense’s packet presented to the judge, Bonsib laid out more reasons for a reduced sentence for his client.
“All of the positive things he has done in his life are now overshadowed by these offenses of which he has been adjudged guilty,” wrote Bonsib. “As a registered sex offender, Mr. Vazquez will continue to face this punishment for the rest of his life.”
Bonsib asked for a “short-split sentence at the low end of the sentencing guidelines, followed by a period of probation.” According to the D.C. Sentencing Commission, in a short-split sentence, a judge imposes a sentence within the applicable prison range, suspends execution of all but six months or less — but not all of it — and places the defendant on probation up to five years.
Bonsib said Vazquez’s age at the time of his first crime, as well as his college degree, puts him at low risk for re-offending.
“As evidenced by the life he led prior to the offenses, Mr. Vazquez is not a danger to the community. He is a generous and caring person who strove to help those in need and enjoyed doing it,” Bonsib wrote.