Few Texas Catholic clergy prosecuted for sex crimes since 2019 lists released

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — When a case lands on Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore’s desk, it comes straight from law enforcement.

“Without a victim coming forward to complain about a specific person, a specific assault, then we are unable to bring a criminal case,” Moore said. 

Since the list of clergy credibly accused of abuse was released last year, Moore said they have not prosecuted any cases involving clergy members. To her knowledge, there haven’t been any reports to law enforcement by accusers or any investigations opened in Travis County. 

Across the state

Moore’s office is not alone. KXAN called dozens of district attorneys offices across Texas to see if there were any charges filed or cases pending in their counties. 

Accused priests law enforcement check
The blue counties represent the dozens of District Attorney’s offices KXAN contacted to see if any cases have been prosecuted in the last year. (KXAN Image)

So far, nearly 20 counties responded with the answer: no cases filed in the last year. 

Simply put by the district attorney in Lee County, the answer was “no and no.” 

“The criminal justice system is a very reactive system, as opposed to a proactive system,”

Randall County District Attorney

Randall County District Attorney Robert Love gave a bit longer explanation.

“The criminal justice system is a very reactive system, as opposed to a proactive system,” Love said.

He explained that if law enforcement officers are out patrolling and see a crime happen, it can be proactive. Most of the time though, they are responding to reports of crimes by victims. 

Especially with abuse cases, Randall says, “it’s almost always reactive.” 

Peter Wafula was tried in October 2019. A jury found him "not guilty." (Source: Parmer County Jail)
Peter Wafula was tried in October 2019. A jury found him “not guilty.” (Source: Parmer County Jail)

However, a few counties away in the Panhandle, Parmer County District Attorney Kathryn Gurley told KXAN there was one case prosecuted in her county in the last year. 

Peter Wafula was listed on the Amarillo Diocese’ list of credibly accused clergy. He was arrested and indicted on a charge of “Indecency with a Child by Sexual Contact.”

He stood trial in October 2019, but a jury found him not guilty. He was acquitted. 

In El Paso County, the D.A. prosecuted one case last year. In Edwards County, there was one case as well. KXAN is working to get more details on the outcomes of these trials.

Why were so few cases filed?

Moore said she was not surprised that only a few cases had been filed in the last year by Texas district attorneys, “Considering the way those names got reported and that many of them were deceased individuals that went back so far in time.”

KXAN asked Moore, in her opinion, whether more victims might have come forward if there had been more details released or time frames for when the accused clergy served.

Moore said she couldn’t answer that question. 

“It’s mere speculation at this point,” she said. 

She encouraged any victim who has experienced abuse in any form, to come forward and report it to law enforcement. 

Photojournalist Ben Friberg, Investigative Producer Anthony Cave, Director of Investigations & Innovation Josh Hinkle and Digital Executive Producer Kate Winkle contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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