Michael Jude Zacharias guilty of child sex trafficking

Michael Jude Zacharias guilty of child sex trafficking

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Michael Jude Zacharias (Hancock County Sheriff

Michael Jude Zacharias (Hancock County Sheriff’s Office)

A Roman Catholic priest in northern Ohio is facing a life sentence after being found guilty of multiple charges of child sex trafficking.

A federal jury on Friday found the Reverend Michael Jude Zacharias guilty of one count of sex trafficking a minor, two counts of sex trafficking a minor by force, fraud or coercion, and two counts of trafficking adult sexual abuse by force, fraud or coercion, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

“This defendant has betrayed the victims in the most inhuman way,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement after the verdict. “He robbed them of their childhood, their dignity and their faith. He inflicted cruel psychological harm, preying on their fears and forcing them to choose between submitting to commercial sex acts or suffering the pain of losing a father figure or counselor, suffering a withdrawal illness and risking death. sexually abusing a loved one.

According to a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, the charges against Zacharias stem from the fact that he paid at least three victims to engage in sexual acts with him. him by taking advantage of the victims’ “fear of serious injury” to force them into submission. over fifteen years. Prosecutors say Zacharias trafficked two of the victims when they were minors as well as when they were adults.

During the federal trial, jurors were presented with evidence showing that Zacharias met his victims when he was a seminarian at St. Catherine’s Catholic Parish in Toledo, when the victims were only young children.

Zacharias groomed the children for commercial sex acts “using his position as a priest and teacher to ingratiate himself with the boys and their families as a trusted friend, mentor and spiritual advisor,” prosecutors wrote. He managed to overcome victims’ resistance to his possible commercial sexual overtures by “gradually sexualizing conversations and conduct with them.”