Trial begins for former subdeacon charged with criminal sexual conduct in Troy

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Hurmiz Ishak, left, who faces three counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, listens as his interpreter translates court proceedings in Oakland County Circuit Court Aug. 23. Photo by Deb Jacques

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times |TROY — The trial for a former church subdeacon who faces three counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor began last week. Hurmiz Ishak, 66, of Sterling Heights, formerly a subdeacon at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church at 2442 E. Big Beaver Road, sat with his attorney, Jalal Gallo, and an interpreter with supporters in the courtroom when Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Phyllis McMillen began proceedings Aug. 23. Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Chris George explained to the jurors what “the roadmap of this trial” would be. He said the jurors would hear testimony from a 15-year-old boy who said he was assaulted by Ishak, as well as an altar boy and choir member from the church, where the events are alleged to have occurred. There would also be testimony from other accusers, whose accounts did not result in charges. George said the three counts Ishak is charged with involve two acts of oral sex and one act of anal penetration. George said the police tape would show that Ishak initially lied about knowing, touching or being alone with the boy, then “changes his story completely and admitted he was alone with him and believed he (the boy) wanted to engage in sex acts.” “He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” George said of Ishak. “He’s guilty of all three charges.” Gallo described Ishak as a loving and devoted husband and father who has been married for 35 years and is a 21-year church member “dedicated to his family and church. His friends respect him. He has high standards, strict standards. That’s why he was entrusted to be a deacon. Everybody loves him. Everybody knows him. Everybody trusts him.” Gallo said Ishak would take the stand in his defense. “He’s going to talk to you. You will see how feeble his English is,” Gallo said. Gallo noted that there would be no health exams, DNA or fingerprints admitted as evidence. Gallo said the Arabic interpreter that Troy police used, via speakerphone, during Ishak’s interview does not speak the dialect that Ishak speaks. “His name is utterly smeared in the Chaldean community because of the allegations,” Gallo said. “There is no admission (of guilt). It’s not true.” Last fall, the Rev. Rudy Roma, the pastor of the church, said the parish received the accusation Oct. 14, and they called Ishak into the church office and immediately suspended him from his duties. He said church officials reported the allegations to Troy police within the 24-hour period required by the St. Thomas the Apostle Chaldean Diocese-USA. Roma said that Ishak was a church employee and a subdeacon. His duties included setting up the altar before Mass, opening and closing the church, and helping with weddings and funerals. Roma said Ishak had no seminary training and was not part of the Holy Orders, but was essentially an “elevated altar server. They can be assigned to chanting and reading of the Epistle of St. Paul,” he explained.