Sunday 4 June 2023

Costa Rica court acquitted priest accused of abandoning nephew in US desert

Prosecutor requested 8 years and 6 months prison

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QCOSTARICA – San José Criminal Court acquitted a priest named Hugo Brenes Villalobos of charges that he abandoned his 6-year-old nephew in the Arizona, United States, desert back in 2018.

The 6-year-old Costa Rican boy was found alone on June 21, 2018. Photo: Customs and Border Protection.

The Prosecutor’s Office had asked for 8 years and 6 months in prison against the defendant for the alleged crimes of charges of smuggling immigrants and abandoning someone who was unable to care for themselves, but the court acquitted him.

Brenes Villalobos was pleased with the Court’s decision and said that he awaits an appeal from the Prosecutor’s Office.

Hugo Brenes Villalobos, the priest who was on trial for allegedly abandoning his 6-year-old nephew in the Arizona desert, says justice was served today. The San Jose court acquitted him of the charges of smuggling immigrants and abandoning someone who was unable to care for themselves. Photo: Teletica
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The trial was held in room 5 of the Criminal Court of San José, before the presiding judges Krycia Zamora Pérez, Bianka Wiciak Chavarría and Mariana Ramón Fernández, who came to the conclusion that the priest took the kid to the desert because the mother asked him to and gave him directions. It was the only way the mother and child could be reunited.

Judges Krycia Zamora Pérez, Bianka Wiciak Chavarría and Mariana Ramón Fernández presided over the case. Photo: Teletica

Sebastián Mesén, the priest’s lawyer, basically asked the Court to consider the struggles of migrant families and the pain of the young boy not having his mother and sisters nearby.

Before the verdict, the priest explained he did it out of love for his nephew and because of his mother’s request, who thought that both she and her child were being denied something essential.

The mother, on her tourist visitor visa, went to the U.S. in search of better health care, but they wouldn’t let her take her kid because they rejected his visa. The Criminal Court said the priest’s actions didn’t break any laws and the migrant’s life was never in danger.


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