Another Haitian in the news. A priest from South Florida who was convicted of raping a parishioner on church grounds will be sentenced Wednesday, and prosecutors are requesting he be incarcerated for a maximum of 15 years.
Monsignor Joseph Philippe, 66, was found guilty of raping a woman in the rectory of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Homestead. Philippe, incarcerated since October, will face between 7.8 and 15 years in prison based on Florida’s sentencing guidelines.
The sentence came three months after Philippe’s trial when the church was exposed for mishandling one of its priests, who sexually assaulted and murdered a child. The case against him garnered national attention when the victim took the stand and revealed that she had previously reported her attack to another priest, Silverio Rueda — who advised her to keep quiet.
Philippe, known as the “founding godfather,” had become like a member of her family, serving as a godfather for two of her children and joining the family on vacation.
But in October 2018, she told jurors, he invited her to his home, where he gave her a tea-like drink. She passed out and woke up fully undressed in his bedroom. In an interview with Miami-Dade police, he later admitted penetrating her with his fingers but insisted she grabbed his hand.
Philippe claimed he had invited the woman to his house, stripped-down nearly naked, and given her an oiled-up body massage in his defense at trial. However, he maintained that he never sexually assaulted her and that his statement to authorities was incorrect.
The jury deliberated for two hours before convicting him of sexual battery. In a court filing, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office requested the maximum penalty, stating that Philippe had planned the assault for months and “used his position of trust and responsibility as a member of the church” as well as the woman’s “personal spiritual guide.”
“The defendant’s criminal activities had shattered [the victim’s] sense of trust and caused irreversible damage to her personally, which she will have to carry for the rest of her life,” Assistant State Attorney Khalil Quinan wrote in his sentencing recommendation.
The sentencing hearing will begin at 1 p.m. before Circuit Court Judge Carmen Cabarga.