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  Priest Gets 5 Years for Molestation
He Will Automatically Be Deported to Native Nigeria after Time Served

By Selwyn Crawford
Dallas Morning News
September 4, 1999

A Catholic priest who pleaded guilty to sexually molesting a 12-year-old girl in his congregation was sentenced to five years in prison Friday.

The Rev. Anthony Nwaogu of St. Anthony Catholic Church in South Dallas bowed his head as state District Judge Harold Entz pronounced the sentence. As bailiffs slowly led him from the Dallas courtroom, he briefly glanced back at some of his supporters.

Father Nwaogu, who will be eligible for parole in 21/2 years, had faced a sentence of two to 20 years .

He also was eligible for probation, and defense attorneys had asked the judge to give him probation and immediately deport him to his native Nigeria to receive treatment .

Parents of the victim declined to comment after the Friday hearing as did Father Nwaogu's supporters who attended.

Defense attorneys and the prosecutor handling the case called the judge's decision a fair one.

"I think justice was done," Assistant District Attorney Robbie McClung said. "The judge took a lot of things into consideration. . . . Now he'll get the sentence he deserves here, and in five years he'll be Nigeria's concern, and hopefully he can get the treatment he needs there."

Co-defense counsel Kim Wade said that though he had hoped for probation, he could not find fault with Judge Entz's ruling.

"We are disappointed in the sentence, but we feel Judge Entz did what he thought was right," Mr. Wade said.

Because of his felony conviction, Father Nwaogu - a Nigerian citizen who has been in Dallas since 1993 - will be deported automatically when he completes his sentence. Mr. Wade said he hopes his client will receive treatment once he returns to his home country.

Mary Edlund, chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, attended the hearing and said the judge's sentence was clear.

"What we've heard today from the courts . . . is that any individual who abuses their position of trust and authority is going to be dealt with very sternly," she said.

"And as a church, we hear that message. The Catholic diocese hears that message. Our priority is making our churches and schools safe places for children."

The victim had gone to Father Nwaogu's house in May with her grandmother and mother while they cleaned it for him, according to court officials, records and testimony. At some point, the priest took the girl to a bedroom to watch a movie. It was there that the assault occurred.

The girl immediately ran to her mother in tears, and the woman confronted him about it. At a previous hearing, the mother testified that Father Nwaogu admitted to her that he touched the girl's breasts and vaginal area.

On Friday, a clinical psychologist for the prosecution testified that after interviewing Father Nwaogu twice, he determined that he was a "moderate" risk to repeat the crime, provided he entered into a treatment program.

"If somebody has access to children and has a position of trust, obviously that would put them at a higher risk," Dr. Peter Henschel said. "An offender is definitely at a higher risk to re-offend if they are not involved in some sort of treatment program."

The defense introduced evidence to show that if Father Nwaogu were deported, his Nigerian bishop would order him into a Catholic-sponsored treatment program with a psychologist who also is a priest. They said Father Nwaogu also would be suspended from performing any liturgical duties until he successfully completed the program.

A Dallas clinical psychologist, Dr. Rycke L. Marshall, testified in support of the defense position.

"It's my opinion that the interests of society and the interests of treatment for Father Nwaogu would be best served by deporting him to Nigeria where he could receive treatment," she said.

Under cross-examination by Ms. McClung, Dr. Marshall acknowledged that she based her opinion only on documents that she had read and that she had not interviewed Father Nwaogu.

In her closing statement Friday, Ms. McClung noted that the victim in this case had a history of being sexually abused before she was adopted and that her adoptive parents had told Father Nwaogu about it.

"He stole from a child who had already been robbed," Ms. McClung said. "Now he comes here today throwing himself on the mercy of the court. Father Nwaogu wants to be treated differently because he is a Nigerian, because he is a priest.

"He offended in this country, he committed a crime in this country and he should pay in this country."

 
 

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