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  Ex-Priest Sentenced in 1979 Sex Case
Molestation Victim Also Pursuing Suit against Diocese

By Yomi S. Wronge
San Jose Mercury News
January 23, 2003

A former Fremont priest who molested a teenage boy more than 20 years ago was formally sentenced Wednesday to six months in jail and five years' probation, among other conditions.

Robert E. Freitas, 57, who was a priest at Santa Paula Church, must also undergo counseling, submit to an HIV test and register as a sex offender, prosecutor Kevin Murphy said.

Freitas could not be reached for comment. He was convicted in December for engaging in oral sex with a 15-year-old boy between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 1979. His victim, Mark Bogdanowicz, now 38, came forward in March when he learned that Freitas was ministering at the Sisters of the Holy Family Motherhouse in Fremont, where Bogdanowicz's mother volunteers. Freitas was arrested April 8 after a monthlong investigation by Fremont police.

Wednesday's sentencing closed the criminal chapter of the case, but the Oakland diocese faces civil suits over its handling of Freitas after it learned he had abused young boys.

"I'm happy this portion of it is over with," Bogdanowicz said. "But this could have been prevented by the Oakland diocese, and that's what I'm really mad about right now."

Bogdanowicz has filed a civil lawsuit against the diocese, claiming Freitas was transferred to Santa Paula Church after he had already molested two other boys.

Sister Barbara Flannery of the Oakland diocese said Wednesday that records do not support allegations that diocese officials kept Freitas in the ministry after he was discovered to be a child predator. She also expressed sympathy for his victims, saying that Freitas' sentencing on Wednesday cannot end their suffering.

Through the diocese, Freitas received intensive therapy for sexual improprieties with two young boys between 1979 and 1983. One of those cases was settled out of court for $50,000, according to the diocese. The other victim decided not to pursue legal action. No criminal charges were filed.

"We've apologized and continue to apologize to any victims of Mr. Freitas'," Flannery said.

Michael Meadows, a Walnut Creek attorney, has also filed suit against the diocese on behalf of a former altar boy who knew Freitas as a parish priest at Hayward's All Saints School and Cathedral.

According to Meadows, the alleged incident occurred during a 1977 church outing. The victim, then 11, alleges he had to fight off Freitas when the priest tried to engage him in oral sex. Later that night, the boy says he awoke to find Freitas attempting to have anal sex with him.

Flannery said she had not seen the lawsuit, and could not comment on the claims.

The boy's parents didn't report the incident to police for fear of exposing their son to the publicity of a criminal trial, but they immediately reported the incident to the bishop, Meadows said.

"They were given assurances that this priest would be removed and not allowed access to kids," he said. "Nothing of that nature actually occurred."

 
 

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