Updated November 24: According to a release from Mamaroneck Village Police, a 38-year-old visiting priest from Ecuador formerly serving at St. Vito’s Church in Mamaroneck Village pled guilty on Friday, November 20 to groping a parishioner during a marriage counseling session in January, 2004. Father Richard Ordoñez had been about to go to trial on several more serious charges of sex abuse. (See: Mamaroneck Priest Charged With Sexually Abusing A Woman.)
The hearing on Friday was before Judge Jeffrey Cohen, whose court handles sex offenses.
“It was a big drama, back and forth,” on the amount of community service the priest was willing to perform, noted one observer. It took about two hours to negotiate the plea, which ultimately included a cap of 500 hours of community service.
Formal sentencing will be on January 12. By pleading guilty to one count of forcible touching, a Class A misdemeanor (the highest), Father Ordoñez no longer faces a possible prison sentence. The maximum sentence for the misdemeanor is one year in the Westchester County Jail.
Victim Lauded by Police
The release from the Mamaroneck police gave credit to the victim for pursuing the case: “Detective Richard Carroll indicated the inner strength of the victim brought Father Ordonez to justice. The Detective is well aware the victim had been victimized twice. Once by Father Ordonez, and then again by members of the parish who belittled this woman for bringing Father Ordonez to justice.”
The unidentified victim, an adult woman, reported the abuse on September 24, 2008, when she learned the priest would be returning to St. Vito’s after some time out of the country. The victim accused the priest of grabbing her breasts and attempting to sexually assault her.
Father Ordoñez, who had been questioned by Mamaroneck Village police on December 6, was apprehended two days later at JFK airport as he was about to board a plane to Ecuador.
He was held at the Westchester County jail for some weeks, but since then has been out on $50,000 bail. After learning of the arrest, the New York Archdiocese revoked the priest’s authority to serve in the parish.
Shortly after the arrest, the Gazette spoke with a social service agency case manager who said she knew of four other women who claimed to have been sexually abused by the priest. One woman said she had been forced to have sex with him.
However, neither the case manager nor any of the other women came forward. Father Ordoñez had many supporters among the St. Vito parishioners.