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15-year prison term for Grassi confirmed

A file photo showing convicted priest Julio Grassi being escorted outside court during his trial.
Priest convicted of sexually abusing teenagers will remain free pending appeal

The Buenos Aires province Supreme Court yesterday rejected the appeal by priest Julio César Grassi and confirmed his sentence to 15 years in prison, ratifying his conviction for aggravated sexual abuse and the corruption of minors.

The case has lasted eleven years, and is likely to drag on a little longer, as Grassi has the option to appeal.

Juan Pablo Gallego, the prosecution lawyer representing the adolescents who were abused by Grassi, defined the latter as a “dangerous pedophile.”

As the Herald went to press, an arrest warrant on the priest had not yet been issued, with judicial sources reporting that such an order was not the responsibility of the provincial Supreme Court, but rather of Morón Criminal Court No.1. However such an order could also be appealed, meaning that he is unlikely to face time in prison in the near future.

Grassi’s sentence was confirmed by the Court in a public document signed by Judges Luis Genoud, Héctor Negri, Juan Carlos Hitters and Daniel Fernando Soria.

The Morón Criminal Court sentenced Father Julio César Grassi to 15 years in prison in 2009 following a seven-year trial, and in April this year, the court determined he had violated his house arrest conditions while his appeal was processed.

Grassi was not imprisoned because his appeal against the final sentence, in which he was convicted for two of the 17 sexual abuse charges of which he was accused, had been under review by the Buenos Aires province Supreme Court.

The Morón court, however, yesterday determined in April that the priest had violated the conditions for his liberty, which included not verbally mentioning any of the minors who denounced him. Grassi called one of the youngsters whose testimony led to his conviction a “liar.”

Grassi has only spent one month behind bars throughout the eleven years of litigation.

The Supreme Court rejected the defence’s arguments of an alleged violation of principles of congruence, absurdity in the evaluation of evidence, arbitrariness and violation of pro reo dubio, among others, confirming the sentence first pronounced by Room II of the Criminal Cassation Court and then reaffirmed by the Morón Criminal Court.

The priest was first suspected of sexually abusing minors as result of an investigative programme aired on Channel 13 in 2002, in which the Hurlingham Felices Los Niños children’s charity foundation head was alleged to have “abused the teenagers under his custody.”

In 2009, Estela de Carlotto, the head of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo organization, said the decision of the court to allow Grassi to remain free pending a final sentence in the case could mean a “terrible risk” to other children, while the prosecutor at the time, Federico Nieva Woodgate, described the 15-year sentence as “too short.”

The trial included more than 200 hearings. Two other prosecutors in the case, Alejandro Varela and Carolina María Rodríguez had originally requested a 30-year sentence for the alleged 17 counts of aggravated child abuse.

Herald with DyN, Télam

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