Ottawa priest sentenced to one year in jail for theft, fraud
Published Wednesday, March 19, 2014 4:38PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 19, 2014 5:51PM EDT
An Ottawa priest has been sentenced to one year behind bars after pleading guilty to defrauding parishioners of more than $100,000.
Father Joe LeClair was sentenced in an Ottawa court on Wednesday.
When Justice Jack Nadelle delivered the sentence, onlookers in the courtroom gasped.
LeClair's actions first came into question more than a year ago. He pleaded guilty on Jan. 20 to theft and fraud following concerns about financial irregularities at the church in early 2011.
While $400,000 in bank deposits could not be accounted for, in an agreed statement of facts LeClair admitted to defrauding parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Church of more than $130,000.
LeClair gambled away tens of thousands at Casino Lac Leamy and pocketed money meant for church coffers to pay credit card debt.
In an apology issued in January, LeClair said: "my addictions to alcohol and gambling contributed to my thoughtless and irrational behaviour."
After sentencing, LeClair's lawyer, Matthew Webber, said the sentence was appropriate.
"I understand what compelled the judge to do what he did," he told reporters in Ottawa. "I'm unhappy, but that's the nature of the offence and to be frank, in law, it's an appropriate sentence."
Many parishioners have supported LeClair while an investigation into the financial crime were taking place. An estimated three dozen supporters were said to be in court for the sentencing today.
LeClair also faces one year probation once his jail time has been served.
The Archdiocese of Ottawa issued a statement saying it would not comment on LeClair's sentencing.
Following LeClair's guilty plea, Archbishop of Ottawa Terrence Prendergast released a statement in January saying he has encouraged LeClair to "move on and to look to the future."
With files from CTV Ottawa's Kate Eggins