Defense reviewing evidence in former Los Banos priest’s child porn case

By Corey Pride
Los Banos Enterprise
July 29, 2015

A former Los Banos Catholic priest who has been charged with possession of child pornography appeared in court Wednesday.

The Rev. Robert Gamel entered the courtroom on crutches, nursing a left foot injury he suffered while hiking, according to his attorney Roger Litman. Gamel appeared in Merced Superior Court in Los Banos for a pre-preliminary hearing on a felony count of possession of matter depicting sexual conduct of a person under the age of 18.

If convicted, Gamel faces up to three years in jail or prison. He has pleaded not guilty.

Litman told Judge Harry Jacobs the prosecution is still in the process of providing discovery evidence and he needs more time before going forward with the case.

“We will need time to review those items, which to my understanding is at least four DVDs and some other evidence we’ve asked to view,” Litman said. “I have a plan as far as how to proceed, accomplish review of the items, and what needs to be done to prepare for the next appearance in this matter.”

Jacobs set Gamel’s next court appearance for Sept. 30 at 1:30 p.m. at the Robert M. Falasco Justice Center in Los Banos.

Gamel, 64, was arrested June 10, following a 10-month investigation by the Los Banos Police Department.

In August, church officials told police the now-former head of Los Banos’ St. Joseph’s Catholic Church may have obtained nude photographs of a teenage parishioner through the Internet, according to court records.

According to a search warrant affidavit, Gamel told other priests he had sought out nude photographs of the teenage boy, possibly from a social networking website. Gamel “bragged” to several people “about (his) anonymous Instagram account and how none of them would ever suspect who he was on Instagram,” the affidavit says.

The Rev. Guadalupe Rios told police that Gamel had informed him “that (the teenager) had posted nude photographs of himself on the Internet and that Gamel had located the photos and seen them firsthand.”

Gamel, who is commonly known around Los Banos as “Father Bob,” was removed from the church rectory on Center Avenue to a location where he reportedly ministered to senior citizens. Gamel is no longer working in the ministry pending the outcome of the criminal case.

Gamel is free on bond and, according to Litman, has stayed in Los Banos to fight the allegations.

Contact: cpride@losbanosenterprise


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