Severely admonished by the girl he molested and the parents who turned him in, Rev. Uriel Ojeda apologized to them at his sentencing today.
He also said he was sorry to officials in the Catholic Church, all priests and to the supporters who backed him from the day of his arrest, saying, "My actions were of a weak and sinful man."
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Eugene L. Balonon then sentenced Ojeda, 33, to eight years in state prison, on the priest's no-contest plea deal entered last month to charges that he molested the girl who was 13 when he was a priest at Holy Rosary Parish in Woodland.
"You traumatized me," the girl told him in a letter that was read to the court by the prosecutor.
Dressed in jailhouse orange in front of a courtroom that was packed nearly to capacity with his supporters, Ojeda said, "I am sorry" and "I ask forgiveness." Soon to be laicized by the Vatican, Ojeda said, "I'd like to, as a final act as priest, to apologize to all priests who serve faithfully before God, for bringing shame to the priesthood."
"I have committed a crime and a serious sin," Ojeda told the judge. "I would like to ask everybody for forgiveness and that they do find mercy for me."
Ojeda's comments came after Deputy District Attorney Allison Dunham read a letter from the girl Ojeda molested. The offense took place sometime between June 29, 2007, and June 30, 2009, Dunham told the court. Dunham, at the time of Ojeda's July 5 plea, said Ojeda "entered the victim's bedroom at night when everyone in the household was asleep," and that when the girl woke up, "the defendant was lying next to her in bed" and that he touched her in a manner "that constitutes substantial sexual conduct."
The priest had initially been charged in a seven-count complaint, but six of the charges were dropped in exchange for his plea. The girl's parents said in their statement to the court, also read by Dunham, that Ojeda had admitted to molesting the girl on 10 occasions.
In her letter, the girl remembered waking up once in the middle of the night to Ojeda standing over her. She said it was her dream to be woken up sometime by a "Prince Charming" of her dreams who would deliver her first kiss. She said Ojeda destroyed that dream for her.
"Remember how scared I was when I woke up, and remember how you laughed in my face and walked out of the room like nothing?" she said.
The girl wrote, "You left a little dent in my life that will always be there." She said she "freed myself" when she finally told her parents in November 2011 about the molestation. The parents then told the Sacramento church officials, who immediately relayed the information to Child Protective Services and local law enforcement.
Officials from the Sacramento diocese drove up to Redding, where Ojeda had since been transferred, and removed him from his ministry. They then delivered Ojeda to Sacramento police who placed him under arrest.
"And you thought I would never tell anyone, didn't you?" the girl wrote. "But you thought wrong."
In their letter to Ojeda, the parents said, "We have always been a loving, supportive and friendly family to you, and in return, you betrayed our friendshp and trust, destroyed our family, and harming our lives and our daughter's life."
The parents said they were forced to move as a result of "harassment" from Ojeda's supporters. "We seem to live in fear and constant anxiety," they said.
About 30 of Ojeda's supporters attended today's sentencing. Many of them had rallied with music and chants in front of the downtown jail from the time of Ojeda's arrest, and they also attended several court sessions leading up to his no-contest plea. Today, some of them shook their heads in disbelief, or stared blankly, while others wept. They left the courthouse today without comment.
PHOTO CREDIT: Father Uriel Ojeda speaking to his attorney Jesse Ortiz is convicted to eight years in state prison for molesting a teenaged girl. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.
Video of Ojeda sentencing: