Catholic Priest Convicted of Child Molestation

Associated Press
July 19, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest has been sentenced to six years in prison for sexually molesting a teenage boy for three years.

The Rev. Oscar Pelaez, 35, pleaded guilty Thursday to 13 counts of child molestation. He was also ordered to pay $1,200 to the victim, now 18.

A citizen of Colombia, Pelaez could be deported once he completes his sentence.

"He took my life and my childhood, the best years of my life," wrote the victim in a letter read before sentencing. "I have been very depressed and wanted to kill myself. I decided to say something because I want my life back."

Prosecutors say the molestation began in 1998 when the boy was 14 and Pelaez was a priest Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Turlock, and lasted until 2001.

Pelaez gave the boy alcohol, showed him pornography and fondled him, according to court records. He was molested during youth camp and trips to San Francisco, records said.

Pelaez, who was arrested in Connecticut in February, was sent to a Hartford treatment center by the Stockton Catholic Diocese in November after learning of the allegations. Church officials say Pelaez did not deny the claims when confronted by the church.

Pelaez, who had been assigned to churches in Hughson, Turlock and Modesto, has been removed from the ministry, Stockton Diocese Bishop Stephen Blaire said after sentencing.

A former Sacred Heart youth minister, Jose Luis Perez of Ceres, 43, has been accused of molesting the same teen. Perez pleaded innocent and is scheduled to appear Aug. 23 in court for a preliminary hearing on five counts of molestation.

In an unrelated case, Stanislaus County officials have cleared a Stockton priest accused of inappropriate conduct with a youngster. Sheriff's officials and the district attorney said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.


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