By Andy Furillo
The Rev. Uriel Ojeda will be facing a prison term of eight years in state prison when he is sentenced Aug. 2 after admitting today that he molested a 13-year-old girl in the bedroom of her parents home in the middle of the night.
"No contest," Ojeda said, when asked how he would be pleading to the single count of child molestation, after Deputy District Attorney Allison Dunham read the factual basis for the charge against him.
Dunham told the court that sometime between June 29, 2007, and June 30, 2009, in Sacramento County, Ojeda "entered the victim's bedroom at night when everyone in the household was asleep."
"She woke up and the defendant was lying next to her in bed," Dunham said.
The prosecutor said the defendant then reached underneath the girl's pajamas and touched her in a manner that "constitutes substantial sexual conduct with a child under the age of 14 years, to wit, 13 years," for the purpose "of arousing, appealing to and gratifying the lust, passion and sexual desire of said defendant."
In exchange for Ojeda's plea, the DA's office dropped six other felony counts that had been filed against him, all involving the same victim. He would have been facing a sentence of 20 years in prison had he gone to trial and been convicted.
Ojeda, 33, was remanded into custody by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Eugene L. Balonon.
The plea came two days after Balonon ruled in a pretrial hearing that Ojeda's admission to the offense in a conversation with a church official and a private investigator was not covered by a clergy-penitent's privilege and could be used against him at trial.
The priest was arrested Nov. 30, 2011, while he was working at Our Lady of
Mercy Parish in Redding, one day after the father of the victim called the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento to report the allegation. Ojeda was a priest at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Woodland at the time of the offense in Sacramento.
"The courage of a young woman and her family has stopped the violence from happening to others," Bishop Jaime Soto said in a prepared statement a spokesman for the diocese distributed to reporters outside Balonon's courtroom. "This day has been long coming. Now justice has been done. The harm inflicted on a young child, her family and the many who placed their trust in Fr. Ojeda will still take much time to heal. Trust is a precious gift for which the minister must always honor and respect those who give it. May God shepherd His people toward healing and hope."
Neither Dunham nor Ojeda's attorney, Jesse Ortiz, commented afterwards,.
Approximately two dozen supporters of Ojeda attended the court proceeding where the the priest entered his no-contest plea. They remained silent in the courtroom. A few of them broke into tears in the hallway outside.
Some of them continued to insist that Ojeda was innocent and was being persecuted by the diocese, despite his plea.
Photo caption: The Rev. Uriel Ojeda, center, pleaded no contest Friday morning in Sacramento Superior Court. Photo by Hector Amezcua / firstname.lastname@example.org
Video of court proceedings and aftermath: