Molestation Trial Delayed for Suspended Priest; Ojeda Case Put off until March
February 3, 2012
|Suspended priest Uriel Ojeda has been accused of seven felony counts of child molestation. |
A suspended Redding priest charged with seven felony counts of child molestation appeared for the first time Thursday in Sacramento County Superior Court since he was released from jail last month after his $5 million bail was reduced to $700,000.
Sacramento defense attorney Jesse Ortiz III, who is representing the Rev. Uriel Ojeda, 32, said his client's case was put off Thursday until March 9 to allow more time to investigate.
But, he said, it's unlikely the investigation will be finished by the March status conference date.
"That takes time," he said.
Ojeda, who has yet to enter a plea, was arrested Nov. 30, 2011, after surrendering to law enforcement officials in Sacramento County after the diocese received a complaint from a parishioner's family. His original bail was set high because prosecutors claimed he was a flight risk.
Ojeda, who had been assistant pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Redding, is accused of seven counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a teenage girl over a two-year span — starting when she was 14 — in Sacramento and Shasta counties, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Sacramento County district attorney's office.
Deputy District Attorney Allison Dunham argued last month to keep Ojeda's $5 million bail in place, saying he was a flight risk and that Ojeda had admitted to an investigator for the Sacramento Catholic Diocese that he repeatedly molested the teenage parishioner.
Ortiz, however, has denied that claim.
The criminal complaint against Ojeda alleges the first three molestations, all of which allegedly occurred in the girl's bedroom in Sacramento County, took place between June 29, 2007, and June 30, 2009.
But four other incidents are alleged to have occurred in a swimming pool, a bathroom and a bedroom in Shasta County between July 1, 2009, and Aug. 30, 2009, according to the criminal complaint. According to the first count in the criminal complaint, Ojeda allegedly entered the girl's bedroom in Sacramento County and touched her inappropriately.
The seven-count complaint also alleges he fondled the girl and kissed her during later encounters with her in Sacramento County. In addition, while they were in Shasta County, Ojeda touched the girl's breast in a bathroom and in a swimming pool and also pulled her on top of him, the complaint contends.
Ojeda has been assistant pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Redding for two years.