Father Joe LeClair should not serve jail time for defrauding church: Lawyer

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Metro News

21 January 2014

By Joe Lofaro Metro

Joe Lofaro/Metro Father Joe LeClair, centre, is accompanied by his legal counsel Matthew Webber and Kim Hyslop outside the Ottawa courthouse Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, after the former Blessed Sacrament priest pleaded guilty to fraud and theft.

A disgraced priest who defrauded his Ottawa church of $130,000 over five years should serve a conditional sentence outside of jail, a defence lawyer argued Tuesday.

Father Joe LeClair, 56, pleaded guilty Monday to fraud and theft in the presence of several supportive parishioners.

LeClair’s lawyer, Matthew Webber, argued the priest should serve a conditional sentence of 18 to 24 months for the crimes he committed between 2006 and 2011.

The Crown, however, is seeking a sentence in the range of 18 months behind bars.

The court heard Monday the priest wrote cheques to himself and misdirected some of the $100 fees collected from marriage preparation courses during that time.

The priest also pocketed cash donations from the collection basket, according to an agreed statement of facts.

The document says he also misdirected funds to pay off gambling debts he incurred from visits to the Casino du Lac Leamy in Gatineau.

LeClair was diagnosed as a “pathological gambler” and has had problems with alcohol, anxiety, and depression, Webber said Tuesday, quoting a psychological assessment of the priest.

“The presence of an addiction cannot be minimized or ignored,” said Webber, adding, “The offences were the product of a disordered mind.”

Webber said LeClair is criminally responsible for his actions, but his psychological condition “does move him down that moral culpability spectrum to some extent.”

Crown prosecutor Peter Napier disagreed with that suggestion and argued that LeClair’s theft from parishioners and his $5,700 vacation in 2011 paid for by the church were not gambling-related.

Napier also questioned the admissibility of dozens of letters of support written by parishioners which Webber submitted to Ontario Court Justice Jack Nadelle during closing submissions.

One woman wrote, “I trust him with my life.”

But the Criminal Code states that a fraudster’s employment shall not be considered as a mitigating factor on sentencing.

“Letters are not to be considered as mitigating features because it was Father LeClair’s employment that permitted him to commit these offences,” said Napier. “Clearly his employment as a priest permitted him to access the funds of the church and the funds of his parishioners.”

Sentencing continues Wednesday.

………

1 comment

Having read your article and having more inside details on the facts of
Mr. Joseph LeClair’s history, I sincerely feel that the “Oh he’s the
poor Priest, he’s only human after all.” is a psychopathological level
“spin” on this MONSTROUSLY pathetic excuse for a human being.

First of all, he’s no longer a “Father” of the Holy Roman Catholic
Church, nor a member of the Society of Jesus from what I am told. He’s
now just a “man” like any other man.

Now, not to insult your
writing, nor to insult the parishioners who’ve been duped into
supporting him in Court, but I wish to inform you that while he’s done
lots of “good” in the past, Mr. Joseph LeClair has many, many personal
demons.

FACTS

• That man also, in my presence, made repeated sexual comments about his young parishioners and pastoral care group members.

• That man also, tried to lure me into his bedroom secretly, and
un-chaperoned when I was at my most vulnerable in the early stages of
battling my own addiction for which I am now twenty-five plus (25+)
years clean now.

• That man also, tried to have me touch him
inappropriately, a matter that the Church’s staff followed-up with the
Ottawa Police and, failing my testimony as I remained anonymous at the
time, went nowhere.

• That man also, attempted to harm me by touching me inappropriately at the time.

• This all happened approximately twenty-five years ago when I was
recovered from my own addiction issue(s) and sought his spiritual
guidance as my family comes from PEI and we’ve been practising Catholics
since we came to Canada from Ireland during the famine. I now consider
my own spirituality a private matter between myself and the higher
power of my own understanding.

He is a very sick human being,
who needs to confess ALL of his mistakes to the public, and to ask the
God of his understanding for forgiveness and mercy.

I have
forgiven him and moved on a long time ago but I want you to know about
these facts. Not even my mother has been told what happened. I told my
(now) ex-wife and she didn’t believe me so she actually called to
confront him a long time ago and he denied everything (surprise,
surprise).

Well, I’m among those who are in recovery who has
never CHOSEN to steal to from anyone to fund any of my historical
addictions. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” as the saying goes
but I definitely feel that it is of VITAL importance that the public
know who this man really is before he is sentenced.

So, I am
among those who wish to see karmic justice prevail with him. He needs
to spend time in jail now where he belongs because he has not only
broken the law but, as a Priest of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, he
was besmirched the honor of the Church and it’s Body by his pathetic,
selfish example, both for the public and secret crimes that he most
certainly has committed.

You may quote me anonymously or
publicly on all of the above as I fear nothing now in relation to him.
It’s now the word of an honest layperson vs. the dishonest character of a
defrocked Priest that will prevail.

I am posting this letter openly on Facebook as well.

Thank you,

Kenneth M.F. McGrath
[redacted]

 

16 Responses to Father Joe LeClair should not serve jail time for defrauding church: Lawyer

  1. Sylvia says:

    The above comment was posted on the the Metro News website on Wednesday morning, 22 January 2014. I called and spoke to Kenneth at length on Wednesday evening. I spoke to him again the following day. He stands firmly by his allegations.

    And, true enough, Kenneth did NOT know that Father LeClair is still a priest.

    In the event that Archbishop Prendergast is not aware of these allegations I cut the comment and pasted it in an email which was sent to the archbishop this evening – he should have it in the morning. The email was copied to the Vicar General.

    Please remember that this is an allegation – Father LeClair has not been charged in relation to this very public allegation.

    • 1 abandoned sheep says:

      Sylvia, there sure are some bizarre cases before the courts which involve Priests.
      This possible development is one more twist in a situation that has been badly dealt with for a long time. I pray the Will of God prevails.

    • Bob says:

      Kenneth seems to know curiously little about Fr. Joe. He also characterized him as a Jesuit, something he has never ever been (was always a diocesan priest.)

      At the time, Fr. Joe was NOT a pastor. he was an associate of Fr. Gerry Pocock. So why would “the staff” be contacting Ottawa police? The obvious go-to guy would have been Fr. Gerry.

  2. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    My humble suggestion would be, in this case, to read the entire blog Sylvia has posted regarding “the sin of scandal”.
    Perhaps the Archbishop AND Joe LeClair should read and re-read the entire blog; it’s what they preach, so let’s see it PRACTISED! Mike.

  3. JG says:

    JG says:
    April 30, 2011 at 10:21 am

    “A lot of the attention is still focused on the amount of money this Joe swindled from the church, or not. His own money from the tooth fairy, possibly…I can only think beyond the money and wonder where that trail could lead. In the case of my Father’s abuser, it has not been mentioned before, but money and “gifts ” were central to Leo Gagnon’s relation to the Parish and to some of the abused. It seems the abusing priests were always well liked, great for their Parish and with children. Sometimes, you wonder where the money came from…
    Maybe this is all good that Joe was caught and his Parishioners should be thankful if he was caught early, if it only involves money….”

    From a “pattern” to an allegation…in 33 months.

    jg

    • Eve says:

      What you say is so true JG any preist who abuses his position in any way is usually first and foremost an excellent con man, in order to gain access to what they desire your money your children etc, everyone knows con men are big on being freindly and affectionate everyone loves them.I don’t know why parishioners don’t see this they need to stop worshipping their preists and Pope, from what I’ve read it’s almost like Father LeClair was a celebrity and encouraging everyone to write letters to the citizen unbelievable!!!

  4. JG says:

    Hello Eve.
    Nice to know you are still there! I hope you and your sister are doing well and that you continue to find comfort on this site and Peace in your heart…

    As for your comments above…I think the real “priests” shy away from being “celebrities”..that they are discreet but present, humble but caring…that they understand their mission of “sacrifice” for the “good of all”…
    We are “human” and weak…it takes time to get things right and we will!…
    Be patient with those who are still distracted by the “spectacle”….We should question and speak our minds but it it not our place to “condemn”…
    You know we all need help and we never know where, how or when we will find it…
    Take care of your sister! She needs you…
    jg

    • Eve says:

      Hello JG
      Yes I’m still here,I come in and read the blogs quite often makes me feel connected to ppl who understand how I feel and where I’ve been and of course I follow all the cases and read victim impact statements poor little darlings all of us who have been abused were just innocent children many ppl forget that they only see the grown adult not all but most.

  5. Someone says:

    The sexual allegation seems credible to me since a long time ago, Fr. Joe himself bragged to me regarding a female [edited] who came over to cut his hair, “She worked on the big head, and then she worked on the little head.” Then he smiled and laughed.

  6. Oakie Dokie says:

    Joe was caught…..how many others are carrying on within many parishes,
    that have not been caught….be it in the catholic church or otherwise…..

  7. Pat Noonan says:

    Where is this all going? Hard enough to try to explain sexual abuse to our grand-children ( when we ourselves have difficulty grasping it) but to explain how a thief ,who deliberately steals, might get away with the crime is not possible. We teach our kids that stealing is a sin—no excuses- .
    No wonder the pews are empty. The only way that Father LeClair can redeem himself is acknowledge his crime & do the time. Yes, we all make mistakes & yes, we all pay the price.
    Yes, I know how charming he is, how he visited my sister when she was ill…..so just think of all the good he might be able to do behind bars. He can truly say,”I”ve walked the walk”

  8. Oakie Dokie says:

    Mr. McGrath says he has forgiven Fr. Joe…..really. He still is very bitter and angry.
    You need professional help also. Sounds like the kettle calling the pot black.

    Gook luck with your hard feelings. We have all made mistakes, and we deal with
    this in the proper manner. Please understand nobody is perfect. God bless to all
    readers.

  9. Sylvia says:

    Oakie Dokie, the fact that Mr. McGrath has forgiven Father Joe LeClair does not mean that he is not still hurting. and yes, probably angry.

    I hope you are not chalking up Mr. McGrath’s allegations to a “mistake” on Father Joe’s part? If that’s the case. please let’s not for a moment forget in all of this that Father Joe LeClair is a Roman Catholic priest.

    • Bob says:

      I don’t think, at the moment, there’s anything to chalk up. At the moment, they are just words posted to a Metro column on the open Internet… It would be hard to even characterize them as an allegation at this point. It has not even been established, to my satisfaction at least, that Mr. McGrath has even met Fr. Joe; as I noted earlier, he does seem to know remarkably little about Fr. Joe, having called him “a Jesuit” and talking about his “pastoral care group” and “parishioners”, things that at Holy Cross he would not have had, not of his own at any rate. Mr. McGrath further states that his own wife did not believe him. I know my wife would not hesitate to believe me about just about anything, and I think that’s true of most people – so how are we to interpret this?

      Lastly, Mr. McGrath speaks of this happening as he was recovering from addictions, and it is apparent from the photo Mr. McGrath uses to promote himself that he is not a young man. This kind of begs the question – would Mr. McGrath have even been a minor 25 years ago? I suppose only he can answer that, as we do not know him.

      Fr. Joe is in serious trouble for what he’s actually been convicted for, and that’s newsworthy enough. Let’s see when (or even if) any of this ever comes to anything before Fr. Joe is presumed guilty of any of it.

  10. B says:

    Bob,

    For your information, it is quite common for people–parents, siblings, spouses, etc–not to believe allegations of sexual abuse when they first come up. How would you know what your wife’s response to a hypothetical revelation might be? The fact that the victim has been in denial for so long at first makes it difficult for his loved ones to grasp new information about him. Denial is, after all, one of the first steps in the process of acceptance.

    As I read it, Mr. McGrath never claims he was a minor at the time. Are you suggesting that allegations of inappropriate touching, taking advantage of vulnerable people seeking counselling, and making crude sexual references about young parishioners would only be problematic in a Catholic priest if they were done to a minor?

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