January 29, 2005

Mesa Catholic priest gets 1 year in jail

East Valley Tribune

By Gary Grado, Tribune
A judge threw a Mesa priest into jail for a year Friday, leaving his friends and parishioners from Queen of Peace Catholic Church shaking their heads and suggesting he was the true victim.

Judge Sherry Stephens of Maricopa County Superior Court also ordered the Rev. Karl LeClaire to serve three years probation and register as a sex offender as punishment for pleading guilty to committing a sexually motivated aggravated assault against a teenage parishioner in 1996.

LeClaire admitted to giving the teenager, now a 23-year-old Navy recruit, a sensual massage. One year was the longest Stephens could sentence LeClaire under an Oct. 28 plea agreement.

"I’m disappointed," said Anthony Chacon, 24, who said he has known LeClaire and the victim for years. "There was a lot that wasn’t recognized."

Chacon said he doesn’t believe Stephens took into account LeClaire’s positive impact he had on the Queen of Peace community when he was the church’s pastor and school’s principal.

He resigned in 2001 after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix got word of the allegations. "He’ll never get the credit he deserves," Chacon said.

Posted by kshaw at January 29, 2005 09:53 AM