by CESAR SALAZAR

 

A former Winona area priest was charged with criminal sexual conduct on August 11 after a victim said the priest allegedly engaged in nonconsensual sexual contact with them in 2020.

Ubaldo Roque Huerta, 50, of Rushmore, Minn., faces charges of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries a maximum sentence of one year and a $3,000 fine.

According to the complaint, around December 13, 2020, Huerta met with the victim, a friend of his, at their residence in Winona County and the parties drank alcohol, causing the victim to get very drunk. The complaint alleges that the victim felt very sick and felt like throwing up and told Huerta to stop following them into the bathroom. Huerta allegedly molested the victim during the night, prosecutors said. Huerta denied the allegations when the victim contacted him afterward, according to the complaint.

In a press release, the Diocese of Winona-Rochester said Huerta had not held an assignment with the diocese since August 2018 and his faculties were suspended in November 2019. The diocese was actively working on laicizing Huerta — or removing him from the priesthood — during the time of the alleged assault, the press release states. Huerta was still a priest at the time of the alleged assault.

Huerta became ordained as a priest in 2008 and his previous positions in the diocese included The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and Saint Casimir in Winona, Saint Charles Borromeo in Saint Charles, and Saint Aloysius in Elba.

According to the January 2020 issue of The Courier, the diocesesan newspaper, Huerta was last assigned to live with the Hermits of St. Mary of Carmel in Houston, Minn., in December 2019.

According to a Windom, Minn., church newsletter from October of 2021, Huerta was laicized that month. It is unclear why Huerta was laicized.

The diocese did not immediately respond to questions on the effort or reasons for Huerta’s laicization; however, the diocesesan press release added, “The Diocese has been working and cooperating with law enforcement regarding the allegations in this serious matter. The Diocese prays for the healing of all who have been abused and encourages anyone who has been victimized or assaulted to immediately report it to law enforcement. Abused persons are not at fault, and deserve proper care in their recovery.”

Huerta is not in custody; however, he is summoned to appear in court on September 8.

Local@winonapost.com