and by Hal Conick, firstname.lastname@example.org
A Catholic priest pleaded guilty Wednesday in Kane County Court to criminal sexual assault of a St. Charles boy in exchange for a reduced prison sentence of four years.
Alejandro Flores, 37, of the 600 block of Brook Forest Avenue in Shorewood, had been charged with 16 felonies, including predatory sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse, indecent solicitation of a child and attempted aggravated sexual abuse in connection with the alleged sexual abuse of his now 13-year-old godson.
Without the plea bargain, Flores could have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 to 16 years in prison, especially given the predatory sexual assault charge, according to Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Debra Bree. She said the prison sentence could have been even longer than that if the judge decided to sentence each charge consecutively.
The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office said between Jan. 1, 2005, and Jan. 1, 2010, Flores had sexual contact with a St. Charles minor between the ages of 8 and 13.
Prosecutors allege during the same period, Flores also tried to have sexual contact with the victim’s older brother, who also was a minor.
As Kane County Associate Judge T. Jordan Gallagher asked Flores if he understood what he was pleading guilty to, the priest appeared distraught and accepted a chair to sit and an offer of water.
“He was extremely emotional,” Flores’ defense attorney Glenn Sowa said. “It was very difficult for him.”
Sowa said he thought the sentence was fair, given all the facts. After Flores is released from prison, Sowa said he will be deported to his native country of Bolivia, where his family lives.
If the case had gone to trial, Bree said the state would have proved Flores was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt using witnesses including the Rev. William Dewan, the Diocese of Joliet’s vicar for priests , and the Rev. Burke Masters, the diocese’s vocation director, who attended Wednesday’s hearing.
Flores was ordained as a priest at Holy Family Church in Shorewood in June last year, but had first met the victim’s family when he worked at St. Mary’s in West Chicago.
Prosecutors say Catholic officials had some warning signs about Flores. Bree said Flores was caught with gay porn on his computer by Catholic officials in the spring of 2009. Though the website posted a disclaimer saying the people involved in the sex acts were not minors, Bree said Catholic officials were concerned some of the images appeared to be those of young boys.
After he was confronted, Bree said Flores told Dewan he had been sexually abused as a child in Bolivia. Flores was ordered to see a psychologist and his ordination as a priest was put on hold until his evaluation was completed. He also was told not to be alone with a child.
In the fall of 2009, Bree said the victim’s mother’s boyfriend became suspicious of Flores, after noticing several abnormal interactions between the priest and the boy. The incidents were reported to police, and Flores eventually was accused of putting his hand and mouth on the boy’s genitals and telling the victim not to tell anyone.
Flores must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence and will receive credit for the 236 days already served.
Bishop Peter Sartain of the Diocese of Joliet released a statement Wednesday stating that Flores will never be returned to any ministry.
The statement also read that diocese personnel were available for interviews with law enforcement and had initially reported the boys' accusations to DCFS.
"Once again, I express my deepest apologies to these young boys and their family for the suffering they are experiencing as a result of this abuse," Sartain said in the statement. "Their trust has been broken and this is a terrible tragedy for them and for the church."