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Spotlight Report

Haverhill priest sentenced

Gets 12-14 years for raping girl

By Caroline Louise Cole, Globe Correspondent, 6/28/2003

LAWRENCE -- The Rev. Kelvin Iguabita, the Catholic priest found guilty of raping a 15-year-old girl working as a secretary in a Haverhill church rectory, was sentenced to 12 to 14 years in state prison after the judge ignored pleas for leniency from both the defense attorney and the prosecutor.

''I have taken into account that you have helped many people,'' Essex Superior Court Judge Richard Welch said in announcing his sentence, ''But I cannot ignore that you committed a very serious crime. She came to you with her problems and you responded with calculated sexual advances. You plainly abused your position.''

A jury convicted Iguabita June 20 of four of five sexual assault charges: one count of rape of a child; two counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over age 14; and one count of unnatural acts with a child. Iguabita was acquitted of a fifth charge of assault with intent to rape.

The charges stemmed from a series of attacks in the All Saints Catholic Church rectory which spanned a five-month period beginning in July 2000.

The victim, Faith Johnston, now 18, who went public with her identity following the trial, had just started to work part-time Saturday afternoons when Iguabita befriended her.

In the victim-impact statement she read in court, Johnston said that the past year had been so stressful that she attempted suicide in March.

''It is not possible for Mr. Iguabita to suffer as much as I have,'' she said, noting that she is unable to play her violin because it brings back memories of the rape. ''Every morning I wake up with feelings of pain and dread.''

Afterward, she said she didn't expect the judge's harsh sentence. ''It is a huge relief, but all I ever wanted was an apology,'' she said.''I wanted to see him get help.''

Prosecutor Kristen Buxton, recommended a sentence of eight to 10 years in state prison while Iguabita's lawyer, Martin Leppo, requested 2 1/2 years in a house of correction.

The most serious charge of child rape carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison.

Iguabita, 34, unshaven and wearing a wrinkled suit, continued to protest his innocence, even as he was about to led from the court in handcuffs and leg shackles.

''I cannot believe this is happening to me,'' he said. ''I am still confused.''

As a native of Colombia, Iguabita faces deportation at the conclusion of his prison term, Leppo said. He has already filed an appeal of Iguabita's conviction.

Currently on administrative leave from his post as the junior priest at All Saints Catholic Church, Iguabita also faces disciplinary proceedings within the church, said the Rev. Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston.

''He will mostly likely be disbarred from serving as a priest again and he may be laicized,'' Coyne said, referring to when the church reduces a cleric to the status of a layman.

Caroline Louise Cole can be reached at Cole@Globe.com.

This story ran on page B5 of the Boston Globe on 6/28/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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