Ex-deacon sent to prison for abusing girls when he should have been behind bars

Times Union [Albany NY]

May 20, 2022

By Steve Hughes

Judge criticizes Angel Garcia for not taking responsibility or apologizing to the girls he admitted he abused.

A former deacon with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany showed no remorse and offered no apology to his victims until after a judge on Friday criticized his silence at his sentencing.

It took stern words from the judge to prompt an apology from Angel Garcia who attacked his victims during a period that if not for a bureaucratic mix-up he would have been in prison serving time for a previous sex-crimes conviction.

Acting state Supreme Court Judge Roger McDonough faulted Garcia for refusing to apologize or discuss his crimes during an interview conducted as part of a pre-sentencing investigation. McDonough noted that Garcia instead expressed a degree of self-pity.

“Your complete lack of remorse, the complete absence of any apology, to your victims, quite frankly, is consistent with the despicable, heinous, villainous nature of your crimes,” the judge said.

Speaking through a translator, Garcia then offered his first apology“I repent, I apologize,” he said. “I hope that everyone forgives me.”

Garcia, 69, was sentenced to seven years in state prison. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse and one count of sexual conduct against a child after an investigation found he abused two girls under the age of 10, including a relative.

Garcia’s crimes occurred during a time when he should have been in state prison on a previous child sexual abuse conviction involving another child. Garcia has been credibly accused or convicted of sexually abusing at least four children.

On Friday, the relative he abused spoke in court.

Every day since it happened, she said, she had asked herself why Garcia chose to hurt her.

“I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never have an answer to that question,” she said. “You hurt not only me, you hurt so many other people physically and emotionally.”

She then addressed other victims of sexual abuse.

“For every girl who has gone through this who is too scared to speak up, speak up,” she said. “They won’t hurt you anymore.”

More than a dozen people sat around her in the courtroom. Several broke down in tears as she spoke. It was unclear which of them came to support her and who came to support Garcia.

The alleged abuse began in 2016 for one girl, and in 2018 for the second victim.

Garcia’s plea called for seven-year prison terms for both felonies. The sentences will run concurrently but consecutive to the five-year prison sentence he is currently serving, followed by 20 years of post-release supervision. He was also ordered to have no contact with either victim until 2036.

Garcia has been incarcerated since October 2019 after the Times Union revealed he was not in state prison or on the state sex offender registry despite being previously convicted of sexually abusing a child.

He had appealed his August 2014 conviction for sexually abusing a girl in 2003 when she was 6 years old and lived downstairs from Garcia. The girl reported the abuse to authorities in 2013 after Garcia apologized to her at a church retreat.

Thanks to an unusual stay of judgment and the judicial system losing track of his case after his appeals were exhausted, Garcia remained free and continued to abuse children.https://0649082d132de60710d5ae11e0287918.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

No one in the legal system has ever taken responsibility publicly for how Garcia managed to stay free after his appeals were exhausted in 2016.

The matter led to a dispute between the office of Albany County District Attorney David Soares and members of the judiciary, with the prosecutors and the judges blaming each other for the mix-up.

Soares’ office had been unaware that Garcia had been free until the Times Union called to inquire about his status.

The latest charges came to light when one of the girls told her mother last summer about being abused by Garcia.

The woman, who asked not to be identified to protect her daughter, said in August she was driving to Albany with her daughter. The pair stopped at a rest area for dinner and the girl told her mother a sexual joke she had seen on the social media app TikTok.

The woman told her daughter the joke was inappropriate, which led to a discussion about personal boundaries. The woman told her daughter she should never let anyone touch her inappropriately, and to tell her if someone had.

“Five minutes later, she said, ‘I have to tell you something,’ ” the woman previously told the Times Union.

The girl told her mother that in 2018, she had been staying with her father in Albany while her mother was working overseas. The girl spent the night at Garcia’s house in the Pine Hills with her half-sister, who is related to Garcia. She told her mother they were left alone with Garcia, who abused them.

The woman who brought the most recent allegations to investigators also alleged that some members of Garcia’s family, including his now-deceased wife, Catalina Garcia, were aware of what had happened to the two girls.

The victim’s mother said the girls told Catalina Garcia what happened to them, and she allegedly told them not to tell their father. She then made them apologize to Garcia, the woman said

Catalina died just days before Angel was sentenced to prison a second time. On Oct. 23, 2019, Garcia began the five-year state prison sentence for his 2014 conviction. His wife was buried the same day.

Garcia worked for the Diocese of Albany for a decade before he was removed from active ministry in 2010. The diocese released him based on “reasonable grounds” that he had sexually abused a minor in the early 1990s before he became a deacon in 2000, the diocese said in 2019.

Steve covers the city and county of Albany for the Times Union. He previously covered police, fire and accidents as the paper’s breaking news reporter. Reach him at shughes@timesunion.com or 518-454-5438.