Ex-Seminary Student Convicted in Sex Case

By Daniel Tepfer
Connecticut Post
January 28, 2005

BRIDGEPORT — A former seminary student was convicted Thursday of molesting a 16-year-old girl.

Leonardo Montoya, 30, showed no emotion as the six-person Superior Court jury found him guilty of fourth-degree sexual assault following 90 minutes of deliberations.

Montoya, dismissed from the seminary by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport just before his arrest, faces up to a year in prison when he is sentenced March 31 by Judge Heidi Winslow.

Assistant State's Attorney Pamela Esposito said the jury arrived at the appropriate verdict.

"I admire the young woman for her bravery," Esposito said. "This is not something that she should have gone through or wanted to relive, but she did and I hope she can get on with her life."

The judge allowed Montoya, now living in Monroe, to remain free pending the sentencing hearing, but ordered him to surrender his passport.

His lawyer, Leonard Crone Jr., said he and his client were surprised by the verdict.

Montoya, formerly assigned to St. Augustine Cathedral and churches in Trumbull and Norwalk, is accused of molesting the girl while he was visiting her Bridgeport home on Nov. 30, 2003.

The girl's family met Montoya while he was working at St. Augustine and befriended him after he helped them with arrangements for a baptism.

The girl testified that on Nov. 29, 2003, Montoya had picked her up in Waterbury with her mother and brother to drive them back to their home here. The victim, sitting in the front passenger seat, said Montoya began touching her knee and trying to rub her thigh.

That night, the girl told police that after she had gone to bed she was awakened by Montoya, who appeared to be intoxicated. She told police that when Montoya pulled down the bed's covers, she yelled at him and he left the room.

The girl said she was awakened again later by Montoya, who had removed the covers and was rubbing her. She told police she jumped out of bed and began screaming. She then ran to tell her father what happened and he ordered Montoya to leave the house.

The girl was so traumatized by the incident she had to be hospitalized for a short time.

Montoya, taking the stand in his defense, denied that he was drunk or had molested the girl.

Police said the victim's family told them Montoya had been married in his native Colombia and also had been a police officer there.

Montoya, who was in his third year of a four-year ordination program, was dismissed Jan. 15, 2004, after police notified the diocese of the investigation.

According to the diocese, Montoya entered St. John Fisher Seminary Residence in Stamford in September 2000 and Blessed John XXIII Major Seminary in Weston, Mass., in September 2001. He interned at the cathedral, St. Stephen Church in Trumbull and St. Mary Parish in Norwalk.

Diocesan spokesman Joseph McAleer declined to comment on the verdict, but stated: "We remind everyone that the Diocese of Bridgeport insists on the highest standards of conduct in all of its men studying for the priesthood. Screening of seminarians continues throughout their four-year formation process.

"All seminarians undergo criminal background checks and a series of psychological exams, and are required to follow the safe environment policies of the diocese, including signing the sexual-abuse policy and undergoing mandatory awareness training," he said.



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