Northern Michigan Priest Found Not Guilty of Sexual Assault Involving Another Priest

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to accuse someone of sexual assault in today’s society. Many who accuse others of sexual assault do so when they aren’t clear on what actually occurred due to the fact they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or simply made wrongful allegations out of spite or revenge. iStock_000000182036XSmall-300x224

Recently a Roman Catholic priest in Northern Michigan was found not guilty by a jury of allegedly sexually assaulting another priest. According to news reports, Reverend Sylvestre Obwaka was acquitted of sexually assaulting another priest who testified in court that while visiting Obwaka and spending a night in Rogers City at the rectory at St. Ignatius Church, he was sexually assaulted by the priest. Obwaka did not deny sexual contact, however he did maintain the consensual sex took place following a night of drinking.

Obwaka is a native of Kenya and became pastor at St. Ignatius in 2013, although he has been a priest since 2010. Gaylor Bishop Steven Raica, a witness at the three-day trial who reportedly spoke to the accused following the alleged assault said that Obwaka didn’t indicate consensual sex between the two priests. Bishop Raica spoke on the phone with Obwaka, and said he was concerned when the priest admitted he couldn’t recall what occurred between him and the alleged victim.

News reports say ultimately the outcome hinged on what jurors believed, as there were no witnesses, science, lab reports, or other hard evidence to indicate the victim was forced to engage in sexual conduct against his will.

Not only in Michigan but across the U.S., many allegations of sexual assault turn out not to be true. According to a study conducted in 2010 by a Northeastern University, nearly 6% of alleged sexual assaults were found to be false allegations, which equates to approximately 12 out of every 200 cases reported. While this number may seem small, the fact that 12 people who are wrongfully accused of a crime that could negatively impact their careers, reputation, freedom, and families is something to think about. Could you be accused of sexual assault when you are completely innocent of any wrongdoing? Absolutely. Put yourself in the shoes of those accused, and perhaps your opinion about sexual assault won’t be quite as cut-and-dried.

Allegations of sexual assault occur every minute of every day in cities across the country. While some are absolutely legitimate, others occur following college parties, a night out at a club, or under other circumstances. Sometimes those involved have a little too much to drink or consume drugs and can’t remember the details the next day. In other situations, one person may accuse another of this serious crime in an effort to get revenge or even to prevent one parent of a child from gaining custody. There are countless reasons people are wrongfully accused, unfortunately. When you are accused of something you absolutely did not do, it’s vital to seek the legal guidance and representation of a skilled and aggressive defense attorney.

Unlike many other crimes, those involving sexual conduct often result in the accused being labeled a sex offender for years, decades, or even life if found guilty. This is a label you do not want, and one that can deprive you of a productive, happy life forever. Sometimes it’s a case of “he said, she said” and it’s up to the jury to decide how they feel about the case, regardless of the evidence or lack thereof. Is the criminal justice system fair? Don’t count on it. While every person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, all too often it works in reverse. Sad, but true.

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