Catholic Priest Sentenced for Sexual Assault of 8 Year-Old Boy

Spero News
September 9, 2010

Alejandro Flores, a Catholic priest and native of Bolivia, was sentenced to four years in prison on September 8 in Kane County, Illinois, for the sexual assault of a minor from the West Chicago parish where he had served as a deacon. He pleaded guilty to one charge of criminal sexual assault and will face deportation to Bolivia upon release from prison. He must serve at least 85 percent of his four year sentence. Flores was given credit for 236 days in the county jail and by law will serve about three years and five months. A plea deal was negotiated in consultation with the victim's family. Had he been convicted at trial, Flores would have faced 12 to 16 years in prison at minimum.

Flores was ordained in June 2009 and befriended the victim's family who attended St. Mary's Catholic Church in West Chicago. In January 2010, the 13 year- old boy's mother alerted the Diocese of Joliet about the abuse. Diocesan authorities removed him from the parish. Two days later, Flores fell from a balcony of a residence provided by the diocese while the charges were being examined. Press reports suggested that his fall was a failed suicide attempt. Flores was not under a suicide watch at the time, according to reports. He was hospitalized, though not critically injured, and taken into custody after his discharge.

"The only saving grace for Alex is, he's still a young man and will be able to go back to his family," defense attorney Glenn Sowa said. Prosecutor Deb Bree said the victim's mother contacted police after her live-in boyfriend caught Flores and the boy in a "suspicious position" at her home in St. Charles in November 2009. Bree said Flores told the boy not to tell anyone of their various sexual encounters in the priest's car and at the victim's home. There also were charges that Flores tried to assault the boy's older brother, she said. The prosecutor averred that the former priest had engaged in grooming behavior with the boys by spending time alone with them and buying them gifts.

Prosecutor Bree said Flores previously told two supervisors, the Revs. Bill Dewan and Rev. Burke Masters of the diocesan office for vocations, that he was sexually abused whilst growing up at an orphanage in Bolivia. She said Masters warned Flores in 2005 that it was "not appropriate for him to be alone with young boys" after spotting Flores and the victim in a parked car. In the spring of 2009, she said, Flores was warned again by Rev. Dewan, who said he saw the victim and his older brother change clothes in front of Flores and call him "daddy."

Bree said church leaders also discovered that Flores had been viewing pornography on the Internet and at one point the church held up plans to ordain him so he could receive counseling and learn English. Rev. Masters attended the September 8 hearing but did not comment as he left court. The victim's family was not present. Flores, who collapsed at a previous court hearing, said at his sentencing hearing that he was not feeling well. Defense attorney Sowa said that it was an "extremely emotional" moment. "It was very difficult for him," he said. The Joliet diocese, led by Bishop J. Peter Sartain, offered in March to send Flores to a treatment center in Maryland for Catholic clerics diagnosed with psychological disorders.

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