Priest Facing Criminal Charges Placed in Monastery
Anaheim City Attorneys Also Agreed to a Plea Bargain with Rev. Luis Eduardo Ramirez Who Was Bailed out by His Religious Order after Taking a Youth to a Motel Room

By Rachanee Srisavasdi
Orange County Register
August 19, 2008

A Roman Catholic priest facing criminal charges for taking an unaccompanied youth to a motel room was removed from his Santa Ana parish and placed in an area monastery pending his sentencing today in the case.

The Rev. Luis Eduardo Ramirez, a member of the Augustinian Recollects order who has worked at Our Lady of the Pillar parish since 2003, was arrested by Anaheim police Jan. 8 on suspicion of child annoyance or molestation and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The case has not been publicized, other than a diocese announcement in the church bulletin.

Ramirez was arrested after taking to a motel room a 17-year-old boy whose mother asked Ramirez to counsel, said his attorney Gary Pohlson.

He was bailed out by his order, and pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor battery and burglary -- a charge allowed when a building is used in the commission of a crime. The misdemeanor charges of child annoyance, delinquency and furnishing alcohol to a minor were dismissed.

Pohlson said there were not enough facts to sustain the misdemeanor annoyance/molestation count.

He also said about 2,000 parishioners have written letters of support for the priest some that Pohlson intends to bring to court today.

"He crossed boundaries but there are not enough facts to suggest he did anything sexual," the lawyer said. "He didn't use the best judgment but things are not as they appear."

As part of the plea bargain, Ramirez faces up to a year and a half in jail. He won't have to register as a sex offender.

Anaheim Assistant City Attorney Patrick Ahle declined to comment on the case. City Attorney Jack White also did not return a call seeking comment. The boy's identity has not been released.

Even though Ramirez is not a Diocese of Orange priest, diocese officials said he agreed to be bound to a policy that prohibits any adult from unsupervised company with a minor.

"The Diocese of Orange is cooperating fully with law enforcement. In accordance with Diocesan policy Fr. Ramirez is precluded from any priestly ministry in the Diocese until this matter is resolved," according to a statement released Tuesday.

The diocese informed church parishioners of Ramirez's removal shortly after his arrest through a written announcement in English and Spanish, said diocese spokesman Ryan Lilygren.

He added the decision to place Ramirez in a monastery was not made by the diocese, but by the Augustinian order, he added.

Rev. Charles Huse, who is with the order, confirmed Tuesday that the order did put Ramirez in a monastery and posted his $25,000 bail.

The decision was made "to keep him in a private situation away from outsiders and young people during the process," Huse said.

John Manly, a Newport Beach attorney who has represented more than 100 clergy-abuse victims nationwide, including those in Orange County, criticized the diocese for not better publicizing the case.

"Putting an announcement in a parish bulletin is violating the diocese's promise to be transparent, open and honest," he said.

Manly also said the Anaheim attorneys should have publicized the case.

"If the Orange County District Attorney's office had this, this would not happen," he said. "It's irresponsible. This priest took a 17-year-old to a motel room. What the City Attorney should have done is publicize it, really investigate the case, and maybe more victims would come forward."

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