Diocese of Fresno comments on priest's sentencing on obscene matter charge
By Jose Gaspar
May 25, 2016
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Father Robert Gamel who once served in numerous Catholic parishes in Kern County will have to register as a convicted sex offender for the rest of his life, serve 11 months in county jail and be on probation for four years under a sentence handed down in Merced County Superior Court. But Gamel may never see the inside of a jail cell. That's because he is eligible to apply for alternate sentencing, which means he could do his time elsewhere with electronic monitoring. The sentence handed down to Gamel was disappointing to Merced County Deputy District Attorney Travis Colby who prosecuted the case.
"We did ask for a commitment to state prison primarily due to the large violation of the public trust in this matter," said Colby.
In March, the 66-year-old Gamel pleaded no contest to one count of possession of child pornography on his computer. Known as "Father Bob" Gamel was serving as the lead priest at St. Joseph Church in Los Banos in 2014 when police were contacted about an inappropriate relationships between Gamel and young males at the church.
According to court documents Gamel told another priest that he had twice seen nude photographs of a teenage parishioner on the internet. The documents state others at the church felt uncomfortable with the way Gamel was interacting with young males.
"That is in my mind the most egregious thing, that he was given such a high position of trust in our community and he violated that trust by his actions," said Colby.
There is no evidence that Gamel physically abused or molested anyone. The Diocese of Fresno released a statement expressing concern about the victim and his family after Gamel was sentenced.
"Our concern is always the impact it has on the victim and throughout the community at large because it is a very serious breach of trust," said Teresa Dominguez, chancellor for the Diocese of Fresno.
Gamel is no stranger to Kern County. He was assigned at one time to Christ the King in Oildale, St. Joseph's Mission also in Oildale which no longer exists , Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Bakersfield, St. Ann Church in Ridgecrest, St. Joseph's in Boron and Our Lady of Lourdes in California City.
Gamel's status as a priest remains in limbo. The Fresno Dioceses will soon begin a "canonical investigation" said Dominguez. That involves a long detailed review from the time the allegation was first received through the legal process.
"Eventually there will be a determination on how this issue will impact his status as a member of the clergy," Dominguez said.
Gamel was ordered to stay away from children, schools and prohibited from using social media as well as restricted access to computers.