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  Priest Pleads Guilty: Sentence: He Gets Probation for Unlawfully Touching Two Girls in a Fontana Apartment.

By Tim Grenda
Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
September 6, 2003

FONTANA

A Pomona priest pleaded guilty Friday and was sentenced to two years' probation for unlawfully touching two girls who lived in a Fontana apartment where he rented a room on weekends.

Honesto Bismonte, 73, who is on leave from his post as associate pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Pomona, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of battery.

Bismonte had been charged with four felony counts of lewd acts on a child and faced up to eight years in state prison, but a plea bargain with prosecutors resulted in a lighter sentence.

Bismonte was sentenced to two years on informal probation, meaning he will not have to report to a county probation officer. He was ordered to pay $ 490 in fines and have no future contact with the two girls.

He also was given credit for one day spent in jail after his arrest in April 2002.

Prosecutors said they struck the deal with Bismonte in part to spare the two girls, now ages 14 and 18, from testifying at a trial.

"We had to look at a whole lot of factors in this case," Deputy District Attorney Briye McCann said. "What these girls would have to go through . . . was one of the factors we considered."

McCann said she also considered Bismonte's lack of prior criminal history.

During an April preliminary hearing in the case, police testified that Bismonte fondled the girls' breasts and showed them pornographic pictures multiple times from 1997 to 2000.

Bismonte's attorney, Phil Kassel, had argued that the girls made up the sexual abuse allegations because having a priest living with their family on weekends cramped their teenage lifestyles.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese, where Bismonte served, could not be reached Friday for comment on his future with the church.

 
 

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