02 April 2010
By Don Lajoie, Windsor Star
WINDSOR, Ont. — Former priest John Duarte begged for forgiveness Thursday as he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexually abusing adolescent boys at the mission he founded in Haiti.
A tearful Duarte told Justice Bruce Thomas that he went to Haiti “for all the right reasons, but in the middle of it all, I got lost.”
Duarte asked for forgiveness from his family and friends, the people of Haiti and “especially the victims and all those who feel betrayed.”
The Windsor missionary, who was arrested in the Dominican Republic and originally charged with nine counts of sexual exploitation in October for sex crimes committed in the impoverished fishing village of Labadie on Haiti’s north coast and the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince, pleaded guilty to three counts in Superior Court.
Duarte, 44, entered his plea as a result of a deal reached between the Crown and defence lawyer Andrew Bradie.
Duarte, who has spent five months in custody, will be given credit on a two-for-one basis for each day spent in pretrial custody. He will be released in eight months or less.
As the charges were read out in a sombre courtroom filled with his supporters and board members from Hearts Together For Haiti, the charity he began, the man once touted for an Order of Canada for his humanitarian work replied in a quiet subdued voice “guilty,” to each.
“You’ve left another dark smudge on your church,” Thomas said.
“Your offence victimized the most vulnerable in the worst slums and most remote villages . . . You who had so much to offer and these three young men had nothing.”
Court was told that Duarte abused the victims at the mission house in Labadie, in a storage room at the school the charity built and in vehicles driven to nearby towns.
Prosecutor Walter Costa said the storage room had a bolt that locked from the inside and a police investigation discovered a stained mattress. The priest exchanged money for food, school supplies, tuition and clothing for sex that included anal penetration, fellatio and masturbation.
Costa said in one case a youth, believed to be 16 or 17, went to the missionary and told him he needed shoes. Duarte told him he could help but first “you need to do something for Father John.”
He grabbed the teen’s hand, put it on his penis and said “yeah, I need it.” In another case he took a youth to the storage room and had anal sex. Duarte invited the victim to his house where they watched pornography and had oral and anal sex.
Crown prosecutor Walter Costa said a fourth charge had to be dropped because authorities have been unable to contact the alleged victim since the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti.
After counselling, Duarte notified the diocese of London, Ont., that he intended to resign from the priesthood and left the country, ending up in the Dominican Republic.
Last October, OPP investigators travelled to the Dominican Republic and arrested Duarte under Canada’s sex tourism laws.
Duarte was returned to Windsor Oct. 26 and has been in custody since.
In addition to his time in prison, Duarte will be on probation for three years, will submit a sample of DNA to authorities and will be entered on the Canadian sex offender registry for 20 years.