Father Joe LeClair's years of work for his parish make him better suited to community service than jail, his lawyers argued Tuesday, but prosecutors argue LeClair's abuse of his position "cries out for" a significant sentence.
LeClair pleaded guilty Monday to defrauding Ottawa's Blessed Sacrament Church of $130,000 over a five-year period.
The Crown is requesting a sentence of 18 months of jail time followed by two years of probation.
The defence, meanwhile, is asking for a conditional sentence of two years less a day.
At his sentencing hearing Tuesday, lawyers for both sides made their cases before the court.
Defence lawyer Matthew Webber argued in court that humiliation and disgrace, coupled with a conditional sentence, can achieve a punitive effect.
"This is as obvious a case of humiliation and downfall that I've seen in this city," Webber said.
Community service a more fitting sentence, defence argues
Webber also argued that while LeClair was diagnosed as a pathological gambler, the psychiatrist said LeClair's chances of re-offending are low. Webber also said the "evidence is clear" that LeClair's remorse is genuine, and that community service would be more fitting sentence.
LeClair was seeing a doctor for anxiety and was prescribed medication, Webber said. His anxiety about the growing demands of parish work led to drinking eight to nine scotches each night, which enabled the gambling.
"This is the evolution that was Father Joe LeClair's downfall ... the insidious cycle," Webber told court. "This is the addiction at work.
"My client is criminally culpable. He is utterly and completely responsible for what he did." His gambling addiction "doesn't excuse his criminal act. But it does move him down that moral culpability continuum," Webber said.
Crown calls for 'significant' sentence
Letters from parishioners were also entered into evidence Tuesday. Webber said they portray an "over-achieving priest" whose responsibilities "mushroomed ... and whose inability to cope was inevitable."
Crown lawyer Peter Napier said it was LeClair's breach of trust was "at one if highest levels available to a white collar offender" because of his unique position of absolute trust.
Napier said the fraud and theft was large-scale and over a long period of time.
"What this case cries out for is a significant, denunciatory sentence," he said.