Ex-Priest Pleads Guilty to Sex Charge
Sentencing Next Month in Fremont Case

By Yomi S. Wronge
San Jose Mercury News
December 7, 2002

A former Fremont priest accused of molesting a teenage boy more than 20 years ago pleaded guilty Friday to one felony count of committing a sexual act with a minor.

Robert E. Freitas, 57, who was a priest at Santa Paula Church, must serve either six months in jail, wear an electronic monitoring device or be placed in a work furlough program. In addition he will receive five years' probation, submit to an HIV test and register wherever he lives as a sex offender, prosecutor Kevin Murphy said.

Freitas' attorney, William Gagen, said he believes it's likely that Freitas will be monitored via electronic device rather than serve jail time. The decision will probably be decided at Freitas' Jan. 22 sentencing hearing. Gagen also negotiated that no other criminal charges stemming from this investigation be brought against his client.

Murphy had said he was talking with two other possible victims of Freitas, all dating back at least 20 years.

Furthermore, Gagen reserved his client's right to appeal to have his conviction overturned in the event the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a recent California law is found unconstitutional. That law, which was used to prosecute Freitas, allows the statute of limitations to be abolished for certain crimes.

Standing before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Dennis McLaughlin, dressed in suit and tie, a sober-looking Freitas spoke clearly when asked his plea.

''Guilty, your honor,'' Freitas said, eliciting a low, collective sigh from the victim's family sitting three rows back.

Freitas showed no emotion when Murphy stated for the record how the former priest had engaged in oral sex with a 15-year-old boy between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 1979.

His victim, Mark Bogdanowicz, buried his face in his hands and took deep breaths while listening to the proceedings. Outside the courtroom, the 38-year-old man, now living with HIV, wept in his mother's arms.

'It's over, it's over,'' the mother and son said in unison, holding and rocking each other.

Speaking by phone later that day, Bogdanowicz said he was pleased with the outcome and is ready to put the ordeal behind him.

''I want to go and get some therapy and just move on with my life,'' he said.

Bogdanowicz came forward in March when he learned that Freitas was ministering at the Sisters of the Holy Family Motherhouse in Fremont, where his mother volunteers. Freitas was arrested April 8 after a monthlong investigation by Fremont police.

On Friday, Bogdanowicz said he wanted to thank detective Theresa Martinez for cracking the case that eventually led to the arrest of another former Fremont priest, Stephen Kiesle, charged with molesting multiple victims.

Bogdanowicz has filed a civil lawsuit against the Oakland Diocese for allowing Freitas to remain in the ministry in the 1970s, even after it was known that he was a pedophile.

''No one should be treated the way I was,'' he said.

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.

Contact Yomi S. Wronge at


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.