Charlotte Priest Pleads Guilty to Sex Crimes

February 2, 2009

HARLOTTE, N.C. — A former Charlotte priest was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for sexually molesting a 14-year-old boy.

Monday, for the first time, the victim, now 24 and known only as John Doe, addressed his abuser and the court. He told Robert Yurgel, "You are a liar, a thief of childhoods, and a child molester."

His words brought tears not only to the eyes of his family and friends, but strangers who were in court for their own cases.

PDF: Diocesan Statement Regarding Fr. Robert Yurgel

PDF: Victim Statements

PDF: Public Statement Of Capuchin Friars

"You have stolen my ability to trust. You have stolen my faith. You have stolen my childhood," he said.

Yurgel pleaded guilty to molesting John Doe, who was then a 14-year-old altar boy at St. Matthew.

Doe said the abuse intensified in 1999, when Yurgel was moved to Our Lady of Consolation. The physical abuse didn't stop until Yurgel was assigned to a church in New Jersey.

"For those institutions who continue to turn a blind eye to those predators, know that your inaction has consequences as well," Doe said.

But the Diocese of Charlotte said it didn't know about the abuse. David Hains is a spokesperson for the diocese.

"The diocese first became aware of the sexual misconduct in April of 2008, when Yurgel was arrested," he said.

It took roughly 10 years for Doe to come forward. In court, Yurgel said nothing. His attorney said Yurgel accepts responsibility and offers no excuses.

For Doe, his most important message was for other victims. He wants them not to be afraid and come forward.

"My family did believe me. My family did not get mad at me. And my family still loves me. Today I take back my life," he said.

Yurgel was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. Once he's out, he'll be monitored by satellite for the rest of his life and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He'll also never be allowed to serve in public ministry.

Meanwhile, there's still a civil suit against Yurgel, the Diocese of Charlotte, and the Capuchin Franciscan Friars. For the first time, all the attorneys in the case are meeting with the judge on Thursday. The Diocese and Friars filed motions to dismiss the case.


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