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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Ottawa priest asks court for non-jail sentence for defrauding church of $130,000

OTTAWA - A disgraced Ottawa priest who gambled away more than $100,000 in church funds at a Quebec casino pleaded Wednesday for a sentence that won't put him in jail.

Father Joseph LeClair had pleaded guilty to charges of theft and fraud for pocketing tens of thousands of dollars from the Blessed Sacrament Church.

Court heard LeClair dipped into the collection plate regularly, and while more than $400,000 was reported missing, a plea deal agreed he defrauded the church of $130,000.

LeClair sobbed loudly as he read an apology to a courtroom packed with his parishioners, and said a gambling and alcohol addictions contributed to his reckless behaviour.

The defence says LeClair is a pathological gambler who should be given a sentence of two years less a day to be served in the community.

The Crown told the sentencing hearing that LeClair should be jailed for 18 months, followed by two years on probation.

LeClair said he takes full responsibility for his actions and asked the judge to consider the defence's request for a sentence that won't put his behind bars.

"I'm painfully ashamed and I pray that the church will forgive me," he said.

(1310News)

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