Obwaka trial to start next week

ROGERS CITY — The Sylvestre Obwaka sexual assault trial is scheduled to start next week.

Jury selection will begin at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday at Belknap Township Hall and trial is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Wednesday, said Defense Attorney Daniel White.

Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka, 46, was charged with a count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with personal injury, and third-degree criminal sexual conduct force or coercion in February.

The charges stem from an alleged sexual assault of another priest in January.

As previously reported Obwaka was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Gaylord in 2004 and assigned to St. Ignatius in 2013.

In the alleged victim’s complaint, he said he was sexually assaulted while he slept.

The complaint was made on Feb. 17 and troopers interviewed the victim and documented the allegations. Troopers obtained a search warrant from district court and collected possible evidence from the scene Feb. 18. Obwaka was arrested later that day and was lodged in the Presque Isle County Jail, as previous reports stated.

During the preliminary hearing in March, after testimony from the victim, it was determined there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial. Obwaka entered a not guilty plea to the charges.

In April during a bond hearing it was revealed a second victim came forward.

The second alleged victim is also male and lives in Kenya. He said the assault took place in Kenya in 2003.

During this hearing Presque Isle County Prosecutor Ken Radzibon said they would try and have the alleged victim from Kenya flown in to testify.

The request to have him testify over the phone was denied by Judge Scott Pavlich at another hearing.

White doesn’t expect this person to testify now.

“We just received the people’s final witness list and the name is not on the list. So he’s not coming. He is not a listed witness. He can’t teleconference in,” White said.

Jordan Spence can be reached via email at jspence@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687.