Kate Eggins, CTV Ottawa
Published Wednesday, March 19, 2014 9:36AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 19, 2014 5:33PM EDT
The popular Ottawa priest who pleaded guilty to fraud and theft charges has been sentenced to 12 months in jail. People in the courtroom gasped as Justice Jack Nadell read out his sentencing decision. Justice Nadell said the breech of trust and amount of money stolen are the reasons he couldn’t give a conditional sentence.
Some parishioners expressed a sense of betrayal. ” The part that hurts the most is when he lied to people that he didn’t take money out of collection (plate). Everyone stood up and clapped then we read it in the paper. Wow .That’s the part that hurts the most, ” says Conrad Rock, a Blessed Sacrament parishioner.
Father Joe LeClair’s actions first came into question more than a year ago. While $400,000 in bank deposits can not be accounted for, in an agreed statement of facts LeClair admitted to defrauding parishioners of more than $130, 000. LeClair has since been diagnosed with a gambling addiction. He was stealing Church funds to pay his gambling debt.
After sentencing LeClair’s lawyer, Matthew Webber, said “I understand what compelled judge ..I’m unhappy… but,to be frank, in law it’s an appropriate sentence.”
Many parishioners have supported LeClair while investigations into the financial crime were taking place.
More than three dozen were said to be in court for the sentencing today.
LeClair also faces one year probation once the time behind bars has been served.
The Archdiocese of Ottawa issued a statement saying it will not comment on LeClair’s sentencing taking place this morning. However, when LeClair pled guilty, the Archidiocese said at some point in the future Father LeClair might have some role in the Church.
RECAP: Father Joe LeClair has been sentenced to one year in jail and one year probation for defrauding parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Church in Ottawa’s Glebe neighbourhood