Jury finds former subdeacon guilty of criminal sexual conduct in Troy

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published September 3, 2019

 Hurmiz Ishak

Hurmiz Ishak

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TROY — A jury found a former church subdeacon guilty of one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct Aug. 29.

The felony charge carries up to 15 years in prison.

Hurmiz Ishak, 66, of Sterling Heights, formerly a subdeacon at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church at 2442 E. Big Beaver Road, had faced three charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Ishak was found guilty on one count, which pertained to oral sex.

In his closing arguments to the jury Aug. 27, Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Chris George said the three charges occurred between May and October 2017 at the church when the victim was 14 years old. He said the victim came forward to his father and church officials in October 2018.

George told the jury that Ishak was a “trusted official within the church who used his position to exploit” the victim. “He had access and ability to do the things he did.”

George said the victim faced fears of stigma and ostracization in coming forward.

He added that the jury had the option to find Ishak guilty of third-degree criminal sexual conduct if they deemed that Ishak did not hold a position of authority.

During Ishak’s interview with Troy police in October 2018, which was admitted as evidence and was played during the trial, George said that Ishak admits to oral sex with the victim — which Ishak’s attorney, Jalal Dallo, disputed in his closing statement.

Dallo said Ishak, whose first language is not English, did not understand the words spoken. “The interview was riddled with linguistic issues.” Dallo said Ishak was provided with “a random interpreter on a speakerphone. The detective doesn’t have someone (an interpreter) in person to help.”

Dallo said that Ishak thought one of the sex act phrases meant hugging. “You can see him getting tired and dazed (during the interview),” Dallo said.

Dallo said there were several discrepancies in the timeline when the events were alleged to have occurred. “This case does not add up,” he said.

Dallo said the victim “is young; he is confused.”

Bishop Francis Kalabat, of the St. Thomas the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Church Eparchy USA, which oversees St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church, issued a statement following the jury verdict.

It states, in part, that the allegation was brought to the attention of church officials in October 2018, and honoring civil law as well as the “prescriptions in the Canon (Church) Law,” Ishak was “immediately reported to the authorities and removed from his position as a sacristan.”

The release states that as a sacristan, Ishak’s duties included opening and closing the church daily and preparing the church for all liturgies.

“He also served as a subdeacon, assisting in Masses, weddings, baptisms and funerals. A subdeacon (acolyte) in the Chaldean Church is not an ordained minister and is not allowed to perform any of the sacraments.

“As bishop of St. Thomas Chaldean Eparchy, I am deeply saddened that this abuse took place, and furthermore that it happened on church grounds. I am truly pained by the horrific abuse and suffering inflicted on the victim and families involved. … As painful as this situation is, I am pleased that truth and justice have prevailed. I commend the brave efforts of the victim, the pastor and associate pastors of St. Joseph Chaldean Church for immediately reporting the allegation to law enforcement.”

He went on to thank the Troy Police Department, the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office and civil authorities, and he urged any person who has been abused in the past or present or who has knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy or other church representatives to contact local law enforcement and/or the Michigan Attorney General’s Office at (844) 324-3374 or at aginvestigations@michigan.gov.

Kalabat also invited anyone with knowledge of sexual abuse to meet with him or call a confidential assistance line at (248) 354-3066.

Ishak’s sentencing is set for Sept. 27 with Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Phyllis McMillen.

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