OC Priest Gets 6 Months in Jail for Taking Teen to Motel

By the Associated Press
Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2008

A Roman Catholic priest accused of trying to molest a boy he was asked to counsel was sentenced Wednesday to six months in jail.

The Rev. Luis Eduardo Ramirez reached a plea deal with prosecutors in June in which he admitted he took a 17-year-old parishioner to an Anaheim motel, tried to grope him and gave him alcohol.

Ramirez was arrested days after the incident in January and was later ousted from the Our Lady of the Pillar parish in Santa Ana, where he served as the church's youth director.

"The victim and his family have been abused by (both) someone they trust and a person in their religious faith," Orange County Superior Court Judge Lance Jensen told Ramirez at the sentencing hearing. "Your actions have ostracized the family from their Catholic faith."

Ramirez was arrested by Anaheim police Jan. 8 after the boy's parents reported the incident.

The priest was accused of bringing the boy to the motel, giving him some tequila and trying to reach under the boy's shirt.

Ramirez pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and burglary. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed charges of furnishing alcohol to a minor, delinquency and child annoyance or molestation.

Ramirez was removed from the parish, banned from performing any priestly duties in the diocese and placed in a San Diego-area monastery pending sentencing, said Ryan Lilyengren, a spokesman for the Diocese of Orange.

At the sentencing hearing, Anaheim Assistant City Attorney Patrick Ahle urged the judge not to be lenient on the priest.

"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."

Ramirez's attorney, Gary Pohlson, asked the judge for a light sentence. He held up a wad of letters written by parishioners who support the priest.

"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.

Besides the jail sentence, Ramirez was placed on three years of probation based on a drunken driving conviction in 2006 in Orange County. He won't have to register as a sex offender but must undergo psychological counseling, stay away from children unless another adult is present, refrain from consuming alcohol except as part of religious ceremonies and pay for the boy's counseling sessions.

Ramirez was a member of the Augustinian Recollects order. The Rev. Charles Huse, a prior at the order's headquarters in New Jersey, said he would not have any contact with the public or with children after he serves his sentence.

"He has a great following of young people who think he's the greatest," Huse said. "They want him back. They say there's no way he would have done something like this."

Huse said Ramirez grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and was educated at seminaries in Oxnard and Suffren, N.Y. He had recently been ordained when he arrived at the Santa Ana parish in 2003.


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