Ex-Priest Gets 7-15 Years

By Patricia Montemurri
Detroit Free Press [Flint MI]
August 5, 2003

FLINT -- Ex-Catholic priest Jason Sigler, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and with chains binding his feet, asked for "mercy and forgiveness" Monday from the men he sexually abused decades ago and the judge who would decide his fate.

But Genesee County Circuit Judge Judith Fullerton, while acknowledging that Sigler "may be a transformed individual" after treatment for predatory behavior involving minors, sentenced Sigler to serve at least 7 years and up to 15 years in a state prison.

"Sexual abuse is a cycle and can be treated and healed," said Sigler, who told the Flint court he was abused as a child in River Rouge. "I've been able to break the cycle of sexual abuse."

Sigler, 65, said that when he molested young boys, "I was looking for acceptance and love, and I reverted to how I had been taught in childhood" at the hands of abusive relatives.

Genesee County Assistant Prosecutor Randall Petrides said he had been an altar boy, like many of Sigler's victims. "Jason Sigler did enormous damage to his victims," Petrides said. "As I see it, we are here today probably as the last stop in the criminal prosecution of Jason Sigler."

Sigler pleaded guilty last month to two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct for molesting Anthony Otero in 1974 and 1975, when Otero's family attended St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church in Flushing. Otero is now an automotive designer from Macomb Township.

Sigler pleaded no contest to one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct for molesting Otero's brother, now a doctor in Washington state, in 1977. A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is treated as such for sentencing.

On Monday, Sigler admitted to molesting Anthony Otero but said he has no memory of molesting his brother. Sigler lived at the Flushing parish for about 8 months before moving to New Mexico.

"Throughout my adult life, I have suffered physically, mentally and spiritually as a result of the cross of shame that you, Jason Sigler, delivered to me as a child," Anthony Otero told the court.

Otero said he has had addiction problems and failures in marriage and business because of the abuse. He also read a letter from his brother, who wrote: "My faith in the Catholic Church was destroyed. My self-esteem was flattened. I harbored for years resentment toward my father for having brought this man into our home and serving as an unknowing accomplice to his deeds."

But the brother also criticized the church for reassigning Sigler when it knew of his abuse.

"As a physician, I see the analogies to an alcoholic who is repeatedly placed in a bar full of friends and asked not to drink. The temptation was great," the letter said. "He was set up to fail."

In the hallway after the sentencing, Elva Otero brandished two photos of her sons as boys in front of Sigler's attorney, Dan O'Brien.

"These are the children. These are the children," she said.

O'Brien said softly, "I know." '

In the courtroom, O'Brien argued vigorously for leniency.

"Mr. Sigler is painfully aware of the anguish he has caused people," said O'Brien, who said the ex-priest was "completely reformed and completely cured."

Afterward, Sigler's wife, Anne Sigler, said, "No one said in court how badly he was hurt" by the abuse in his childhood. "He has made amends, and I feel that in many ways he's made restitution. He's had 20 years to fall, and he has not fallen once."

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he is grateful Sigler will spend some time behind bars.

"On the other hand, seven years seems like a pretty light sentence given that he has abused dozens of kids," Clohessy said. "All the psychological research indicates that child molesters are rarely cured."

The Siglers married in 1982, after he left the priesthood and had years of therapy.

His notorious past as a serial sex offender was the subject of a segment on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes," and resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements with victims in New Mexico. In 1983, he received probation after being convicted of sexually abusing a minor.

Sigler was sentenced in January to one year in a Wayne County jail for molesting a River Rouge relative in the 1960s and a Hazel Park altar boy in the 1970s. Eight days into his sentence at the Dickerson Detention Facility in Hamtramck, Genesee prosecutors charged him in the Otero cases.

Sigler has been in the Genesee County Jail since Jan. 23.


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