Ex-Priest Guilty in Sex Assault of Assisted-Living Home Resident

Associated Press, carried in Providence Journal-Bulletin
September 1, 2001

A 61-year-old Providence man was sentenced yesterday to 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a mentally disabled person.

Joseph Rocha's guilty plea halted his trial, which was in its fifth day of testimony in Superior Court.

During the trial, prosecutors said Rocha sexually assaulted a 21-year-old man living at an assisted-living facility in North Providence in January 1999. Rocha was providing personal services, such as cooking and cleaning, to the facility at the time.

Before his guilty plea, Rocha took the witness stand in his defense.

Rocha, a former Catholic priest, said he baptized the victim but then lost contact with his family. He said he regained contact with the young man and his mother in 1998 and developed what he called a "special relationship."

But he had denied assaulting the man.

Rocha was ordered to register as a sex offender and undergo counseling.


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