Update: An earlier version of this story reported Davila had pleaded guilty to sex crimes.
Though charged with three sex-related crimes, the priest eventually was convicted on a misdemeanor battery charge.
He has not been convicted of sex crimes.
In 2015, a judge approved Davila’s petition to have his plea withdrawn and his guilty verdict set aside.
LAWTON, Okla. – A priest working in a southwest Oklahoma parish, despite pleading guilty to battery, has been removed from his post.
In a statement obtained by NewsChannel 4, Archbishop Paul Coakley said he made the decision after learning “new information” about the allegations against Fr. Jose Alexis Davila.
“I am grateful for the support and cooperation of parishioners, parents, staff and clergy in Lawton and Elgin who met with me today and for Father Chapman’s continued service to the faith community at Blessed Sacrament and Saint Mary’s Catholic School,” Coakley said. “We are committed as an archdiocese to maintaining a safe environment in every parish and institution, so that families feel safe and welcome to practice their faith. Consequently, we will continue to review and seek ways to improve our current procedures.”
In 2011, while working in San Diego, prosecutors accused Davila of touching the 19-year-old victim in three areas against her will and charged him with three counts of sexual battery.
The next year, Davila pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor battery charge in 2012, supposedly to avoid the embarrassment of a long, drawn-out trial.
Davila was ordered to stay away from his victim.
After serving his three-year probation and performing community service, a judge accepted his petition for dismissal – withdrawing Davila’s guilty plea and setting the guilty verdict aside.
He arrived in Lawton in Dec. 2015, despite his record, having been deemed “fit to minister.”
The archbishop and clergy at Blessed Sacrament told NewsChannel 4 Davila “accepted the consequences of his lapse in judgement,” adding the diocese had thoroughly vetted the Venezuelan priest.
Others told NewsChannel 4 the incident in Davila’s past was an accident and a misunderstanding and they believed he made his guilty plea to forgo a potentially embarrassing trial.
The archbishop did not elaborate on the “new information” brought to light.
When asked by email for specifics on the new information, a spokeswoman only replied “the new information was further information related to the incident in San Diego” and did not reply to follow-up emails.
A spokeswoman also did not answer questions about whether there were other priests in the diocese with criminal records.
The Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests posted this statement online:
“Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley is both endangering and misleading his flock and the public. Over the weekend, Coakley released and factually wrong, incredibly deceptive and hurtful statement about the convicted cleric who assaulted a teenager but is being promoted to head three Oklahoma churches.”
The archbishop spoke to the congregation Tuesday evening to answer questions and apologize.
Parishioner Gerda Weekley, who has a daughter who attends the adjoining St. Mary’s Catholic School, told NewsChannel 4 the gesture helped restore her faith in the diocese.
“It was refreshing. It was relieving more as a parent that he was truly sincere about the hurt we had been experiencing,” she said. “Our leadership wouldn’t have done this to us intentionally.”
Initially, Weekley said she felt “betrayed” by the archdiocese, when she learned about Davila’s past.
But, now that she has more information, she thought it was appropriate for him to leave.
“It had to be done,” she said. “For the safety of our kids, most definitely.”
Now, she said her congregation can begin to heal.
“I’m a firm believer that God does not give you anything you can’t handle or overcome,” she said. “You just have to have the faith and the will to work through it.”