Actor Replaced after Sex Admission

By Jan Hollingsworth
Tampa Tribune
February 25, 2007

TAMPA - The show must go on, and this weekend the show went on without Jorge Acosta, a member of the cast of "Cigar City Chronicles."

Acosta, 48, was replaced by understudy Jonathan Gonzalez after a Tampa Tribune article Saturday detailed recent revelations about the popular performer's sexual encounters with teenage boys. The incidents took place more than two decades ago at Mary Help of Christians School in Tampa, according to statements Acosta made in a sworn deposition this month.

Officials at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center tapped Acosta's understudy for four weekend performances of the musical, which premiered Feb. 16 and runs through April 29.

"We're still checking into everything on our end and looking at all of our options, including replacing Jorge," said Michael Kilgore, vice president of marketing for the performing arts center.

A decision is expected Monday, he said.

In Acosta's sworn deposition, the former cleric and teacher admitted to engaging in sexual relations with at least three boys in 1983.

The deposition was taken by lawyers representing former students who have filed a $5 million civil lawsuit against the school, which closed last year, and the Catholic order that operated it.

Miami lawyer Adam Horowitz filed suit against the school and the Salesian Society in 2005, claiming negligence for not reporting students' allegations about sexual abuse.

Acosta testified in his deposition that he admitted his conduct to school officials in 1983 when a student reported it to his parents.

"The things I have done when I was 24 and in a very confused state of mind - those things don't negate the good that I have done since," Acosta told a Tribune reporter when asked about the incidents.

He left the school and the clergy in 1983 and has spent much of the time since working with children as a coach and mentor in the local performing arts scene.

"Jorge is one of the bright lights in entertainment in the Tampa Bay area," said Rene Gonzalez, founder of the Spanish Lyric Theatre. "Although what he did was wrong, it would be a shame to lose his presence in the arts in the area."

Gonzalez said Acosta called him Friday night, just before going onstage, to let him know the Tribune story would be running in the morning.

"He was very, very depressed and upset. He said, 'I'm sure I'll be fired.' He was ready to take whatever came."

Acosta could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Meanwhile, local law enforcement is looking into whether criminal charges should be filed.

The case likely will be referred to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office for further investigation, said Pam Bondi, a spokeswoman for the state attorney's office.

"We haven't even seen the deposition," she said.

So much time has passed that much of what occurred may exceed the statute of limitations, she said. However, capital sexual battery - which includes oral copulation - has no time constraints for prosecution.

That is among the acts Acosta admits to in his deposition.

Saturday's revelations came as no surprise to Gonzalez, who had heard them from the students' lawyers in November. But it has caused rumblings in the arts community, he said.

"I've had some people who have said, 'Have you read the paper?' They're upset and disappointed," he said.


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