A defrocked priest in Puerto Rico accused of lewd acts involving a 13-year-old boy has accepted a plea deal as his trial was set to begin.
Edwin Mercado Viera pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and now faces between three to eight years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 21.
The 53-year-old was a popular figure in the Diocese of Arecibo before he was accused of fondling the genitals of a 13-year-old altar boy in 2007.
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Prosecutors were preparing to select the jury when Mercado entered his plea yesterday. He was one of six defrocked priests from the Arecibo parish.
Authorities in the US territory are investigating at least 17 other priests and eight dioceses facing similar allegations.