Priest Who Sexually Abused Girl Gets Suspended Sentence

February 18, 2011

A former local priest will serve less than two more months in jail for sexually assaulting a child in Virginia.

Rev. Felix Owino pleaded guilty in September to inappropriately touching an 11-year-old girl last year in Fairfax.

On Friday, Owino was sentenced to five years in prison, but everything was suspended except for nine months. Owino was granted credit for time served, and he has already been jailed for 7 1/2 months. So, he will remain in prison for 1 1/2 more months.

After he is released, he will be on probation for five years. He will also be required to undergo alcohol counseling and sex offender treatment.

Members of the group Survivors Network Of Those Abused By Priests -- or SNAP -- had urged the judge to hand down the maximum sentence. They said they suspect this isn't Owino's first crime against children and are concerned there are more victims.

Virginia police said they were called after a family reported Owino -- their house guest and longtime friend -- inappropriately touched a girl in their home. Prosecutors said Owino had been drinking the night of the incident.

Owino most recently served as an associate pastor at St. Paul's parish in Weirton. Until June, he was also a faculty member in the philosophy department of Wheeling Jesuit University.

In exchange for Owino's plea, prosecutors agreed to a five-year sentence. But under Virginia sentencing guidelines, a judge said that translated to just months in prison.

Before his sentencing, Owino quoted scripture to express his remorse. His attorney, Joshua Wilson, told the judge about Owino's alcoholism, which started when Owino taught in Uganda and saw the genocide around him. Wilson said Owino's drinking problem followed him to nearly every teaching job in the U.S. besides Wheeling. In addition, Wilson said it played a big role in Owino's actions with the 11-year-old victim.

Judge Michael Devine said Owino's problems extended beyond alcoholism and said, "There is something terribly wrong with you that you need to get fixed, if it can be fixed."

Owino is not a U.S. citizen, so he could be deported at any time. Official said Owino has hired a separate immigration attorney to handle that matter.

Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Owino was ordained in 1992 and is a member of the Religious Missionary Institute of the Apostles of Jesus, headquartered in Philadelphia. He joined the faculty of Wheeling Jesuit in the fall of 2008 and taught for two consecutive terms, most recently instructing an online class. Prior to that, he worked at Magdalen College in New Hampshire and before that at Alvernia College in Reading, Pa.

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