East Bay priest charged with sexually abusing child facing nearly five years in prison
By Joseph Geha
Bay Area News Group
August 21, 2019
|Hector David Mendoza-Vela on Friday pled no contest to five counts of lewd or lascivious acts upon a child age 14 or 15, officials said. |
An East Bay priest who repeatedly sexually assaulted a child is facing nearly five years in state prison, officials said.
Hector David Mendoza-Vela on Friday pleaded no contest to five counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child age 14 or 15, court documents show.
Last month, he pleaded not guilty to 30 criminal counts filed against him in April by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
Mendoza-Vela is facing four years and eight months in prison under a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office, according to Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for the office.
He will also be required to register as a sex offender for life, and must stay away from the victim for 10 years, Drenick said.
As part of the agreement, the remaining 25 charges against him were dismissed, court records show. He will be sentenced on Sept. 27 at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.
Mendoza-Vela, also known as Father David Mendoza-Vela, had served as a priest in Alameda County since 2013, working at St. John’s Catholic Church in San Lorenzo and more recently at Corpus Christi Church in Fremont.
Prosecutors said previously that in an interview with authorities, Mendoza-Vela, “confessed to inappropriately touching” the genitals of a 14- or 15-year-old boy over his pants “at least 20 times” from June 2016 through December 2017, while he was a priest at St. John’s.
He was arrested on March 28 after officers from the Alameda County Sheriff’s special victims unit recorded him on a phone call apologizing to the victim for touching his genitals while knowing he was 14 when the abuse began, authorities said.
Prosecutors said that in the 18-month span, Vela inappropriately touched the boy “a minimum of 30 times in his genital area,” and during one of the incidents, “Vela inserted one of his bare hands inside (the boy’s) pants and touched his bare penis.”
Authorities said Vela wrote the victim’s family an apology letter after his interview with investigators.
After the priest’s arrest in March, Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland said he placed Mendoza-Vela on administrative leave, according to a letter to parishioners posted on Corpus Christi’s website.
On Wednesday, the Barber said they were aware of the latest legal developments, and released the following statement: “We will begin the canonical (church) process regarding his status in the church…I pray all can understand how seriously we are addressing this scourge of clergy sexual abuse, not just by our words, but by our actions.”
Mendoza-Vela was born Feb. 21, 1977, in El Salvador, according to the Diocese. He came to the United States in 2008, and is a legal resident of the U.S. He was ordained May 18, 2013, for the Diocese.
A 2008 article in The Catholic Voice, an online publication of the Oakland Diocese, said Mendoza-Vela considered “his vocation as ‘a call to serve the people of God, even in small things.’”
He is still being held without bail in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, county inmate records show.
The district attorney’s office had set up a confidential hotline telephone number so anyone who may have been victimized by Vela or has additional information about him can leave a confidential message. The number for the hotline is 510-272-6395, the office said.