EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – A former El Paso priest will spend the next 18 years in prison and 30 years of probation for sexually assaulting a young girl in the 1990s.
Miguel Luna was found guilty on Monday and was sentenced by the same jury on Tuesday.
During the sentencing phase of the trial on Tuesday, victims shared stories of depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety following Luna’s assault.
During closing arguments in the sentencing phase, the prosecution team asked the jury to give Luna time in prison rather than probation or community discipline. Prosecuting attorneys in reference to Luna’s victims, “You heard how their lives were affected, on how they continue to live today with the pain from that man (Luna). All of them cried. All of them suffered.”
The prosecution team also pointed to the defendant arriving late to one of the hearings, “You saw that he is not capable of following simple rules. Strip him of his clothing, put him in the proper clothing and send him to prison.”
The defense team counter-argued that probation is enough of a sentence for Luna due to health issues, “I know he (Luna) won’t survive in prison.”
The jury deliberated Luna’s sentence for only a few hours.
The jury gave Luna to serve:
- 18 years for each of the six counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child counts (108 years).
- 10 years for each of the two counts of sexual assault of a child (20 years).
- 10 years of probation for each of the three counts of indecency of a child (30 years of probation).
The amount of years in prison total to 138 years, however it was decided that Luna would serve the years concurrently; meaning they will all be served at the same time.
During the victim impact statement, the victim read out of a handwritten letter, “You took my innocence and my faith away from me. You made me believe that I was only worthy of your attention. I came to you because I saw you as a father figure.”
“May you sleep with the demons that surround your soul,” the victim said, “you thought that our silence would be forever and that you got your way.”
One of Luna’s victims, who previously worked with the priest at St. Pius Catholic Church, took the stand on Monday and told the courtroom she was also raped in that same time frame.
The woman told the jury that she and Luna went to Juarez to have dinner and drinks before he dropped her off and allegedly sexually assaulted her in her living room.
The defense argued that the woman seduced Luna. “If she didn’t want that she should have said no before the date,” attorneys said during closing arguments.
The defense also brought former altar server to the stand, who said she never noticed any inappropriate behaviors from Luna.
“I never saw any preferences towards anyone, he was a very open person to everyone,” the woman said.
During closing arguments, prosecutors said Luna used his position in the church to take advantage of unknowing victims.
“The defendant used his position as a priest to abuse her and would use his position to keep her quiet,” attorneys said. “A wolf in sheep’s clothing.”