|Judge Gives Priest 180 Days, Calls His Actions a "Double Betrayal"
By Rachanee Srisavasdi
The Orange County Register
August 21, 2008
SANTA ANA – In a case the judge called a "double betrayal," a Catholic priest who took a 17-year-old parishioner to a motel room, gave him alcohol and then tried to grope him was sentenced Wednesday to 180 days in jail for the crime.
The Rev. Luis Eduardo Ramirez, ousted from Our Lady of the Pillar parish in Santa Ana in January after his arrest, stood quietly as Orange County Superior Court Judge Lance Jensen rendered his decision.
"The victim and his family have been abused by (both) someone they trust and a person in their religious faith," the judge told the priest. "Your actions have ostracized the family from their Catholic faith."
On Jan. 3, Ramirez – the church's youth director – brought the boy and, some tequila, to an Anaheim motel. There, he gave the youth the alcohol. He put his head on the boy's lap, tried to reach under the boy's shirt.
It was revealed in court Wednesday that the priest had a rap sheet, and had been convicted in 2006 for drunk driving in Orange County. That case warranted a sentence of three years probation.
Anaheim Assistant City Attorney Patrick Ahle urged the judge to put the priest behind bars for 180 days.
"This is about someone who is supposed to be a good shepherd tending to his flock," Ahle said. "Instead, he abused one of them for his own gratification."
But Ramirez's attorney, Gary Pohlson, asked for leniency. He held up a wad of letters written by parishioners who support the priest, saying he has gotten about 2,000 letters.
"He is very remorseful for what he's done to the young man and the pain he's caused the young man's family," Pohlson told the judge.
Parishioners packed the room. When the judge announced his decision, two burst out sobbing. One supporter had to be dragged outside, his face red with anger.
"He's a good man," said another parishioner, Leonardo Cortez. "These are lies.''
Days after the incident, the boy's parents called police and Ramirez – a member of the Augustinian Recollects order – was taken into custody. His order put him in a San Diego-area monastery pending sentencing.
The priest pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in June. Three other misdemeanors – furnishing/selling alcohol to a minor, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and annoying or molesting a child – were dropped as part of a plea bargain with the Anaheim City Attorney's Office.
Ramirez will begin serving his jail sentence Sept. 24. He was also put on three years probation, and ordered not to contact the victim or his family.
The boy – whose name has not been released – declined to comment through his civil attorney, Federico Sayre.
Sayre gave these details about the crime: Ramirez got the boy to leave his home late at night under the ruse of visiting another parishioner who was in the hospital. After grabbing dinner, the priest pulled into the motel parking lot. The youth was surprised, but decided to go into the motel with the priest, Sayre said. After Ramirez tried to touch him, the boy ran out.
"(Parishioners) need to understand, it's true," Sayre said. "The fact of the matter is, he pleaded guilty."
Ramirez is precluded from any priestly ministry in the Diocese of Orange.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," according to a diocese statement.
Ramirez's order did not return calls seeking comment.
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