Crime

Ex-priest goes on trial for decades-old child sexual abuse in El Paso

Miguel Luna trial

EL PASO, Texas - Opening arguments and initial testimony took place Tuesday as the trial of a former El Paso Catholic priest accused of child sexual assault got underway in court.

Miguel Luna, 68, is charged with aggravated assault of a child in a case that dates back to the 1990s while he was still an active priest; the alleged victim is now a 36-year old woman.

He's pleaded not guilty to all 12 counts against him.

Prosecutors on Tuesday compared Luna to a "wolf in sheep's clothing."  But the defense played off that analogy, saying Luna was like "a wolf in nature," claiming he was faithful to the church.

Luna started working as a priest in the 10-county Diocese of El Paso in 1982, but was later removed from ministry in 2013.

The victim took the witness stand Tuesday, essentially testifying to details she told investigators that were outlined in court documents previously reported on by ABC-7.

The victim testified she was an alter server at Corpus Christi church and only eight years old at the time, when Luna began kissing her "passionately" during confessionals. Between the ages of 10 and 13, Luna allegedly touched her breasts and sexually assaulted her.

The victim recalled Luna telling her "remember this is confession so whatever happens in here stays in here."

When she was 12 years old, the victim said Luna moved to another church, but he stayed in contact with her — even picked her up from school.

She choked up in court as she told jurors about how he would take her back to his new church, where he is alleged to have forcefully sexually assaulted her. The woman testified he also took her to a motel in Mexico.

She added that Luna continued having sex with her until she was 17 years old. The former priest reportedly had a close relationship with the victim's mother — and the woman said the assaults ended when she finally moved away.

Luna sat in court relatively quiet and expressionless during the opening statements and his alleged victim's testimony.

The Diocese claims that Luna admitted to the assaults when church officials first became aware of the allegations and looked into it.


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