A priest showed the way
She thought she might get off with a few Hail Marys. Instead, she got three years in prison.
The 27-year-old New Jersey woman who cried rape and put away an innocent man had no idea what coming clean would cost her when she stepped into a confessional a year ago and told her priest everything.
"She was going to confess this was her sin and that was it," said a source familiar with the shocking recantation of Biurny Peguero Gonzalez, who on Tuesday was sentenced to one to three years in prison for falsely accusing William McCaffrey of a violent sexual assault in 2005.
McCaffrey, whom Gonzalez had accused of raping her on a deserted Inwood street, served nearly four years of a 20-year sentence. The Bronx man, now 33, was exonerated in December after Gonzalez, a mother of two, admitted concocting the tale to gain sympathy from friends.
Although Gonzalez desperately wanted McCaffrey freed, "I don't think she felt that it was going to go beyond that confession. She just happened to pick a priest who said, 'Oh, no, no, no . . .' "
The priest, the Rev. Zeljko Guberovic of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Union City, made it clear to her that her obligation didn't end with admitting the lie.
He told her she had to do everything in her power to get McCaffrey out, said sources familiar with the case.
That eventually put her in the cross hairs of Manhattan prosecutors, who charged her with perjury, but Gonzalez never wavered, they said.
"She's the hero, not me," Guberovic told The Post.
Gonzalez's admission in March 2009 was her first trip to the confession booth since McCaffrey's conviction four years earlier, and it may have been the first in her life, the sources said.
"The priest said, 'The only way you can make this right is to get a lawyer and get this man out of jail,' " said Gonzalez's lawyer, Paul Callan.
She agreed, and Guberovic contacted a lawyer he knew who in turn reached out to Callan.
"It took enormous courage to turn herself in. It was something that was spiritually motivated. She had nothing to gain and everything to lose," Callan said.
Gonzalez was tormented by her lie, Callan said.
"She was having trouble sleeping. She's been haunted by guilt," he said.
Guberovic's active role in the case left Biurny "enormously grateful," Callan said, but it drew criticism from some parishioners who questioned whether he acted appropriately.
And the Newark Archdiocese reminded the reverend he was not to reveal the contents of any confession.
"He's not supposed to say anything," Callan said. "There's a thing called priest-penitent privilege."