Father Joseph LeClair is set to be sentenced on March 19 after final sentencing submissions were made in court on Wednesday.

LeClair made an emotional plea in court for a conditional sentence, accompanied by an apology to the court and his former parishioners. 

Father Joe Leclair

Father Joseph LeClair, centre, pleaded guilty Monday to defrauding Ottawa's Blessed Sacrament Church of $130,000 over a five-year period. (CBC)

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.

In court Wednesday, LeClair said he regrets taking the money from the church. Parishioners in the courtroom were seen wiping tears away as LeClair spoke.

“I would like to express how deeply remorseful I am for all that has transpired ... I have embarrassed and humiliated the priesthood and the church,” said LeClair, reading from a statement.

“While the realization was not immediate, I now better understand that my addictions to alcohol and gambling contributed to my thoughtless and irrational behaviour.”

Defence wants conditional sentence

Defence lawyer Matthew Webber argued in court that humiliation and disgrace, coupled with a conditional sentence, can achieve a punitive effect.

Webber also said the psychiatrist’s report indicated LeClair's chances of re-offending are low, the "evidence is clear" LeClair's remorse is genuine, and that community service would be more fitting sentence.

Crown lawyer Peter Napier said Tuesday, and reiterated Wednesday, LeClair's breach of trust was "at one of the 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, and that LeClair deserves 18 months in jail.

"He was driven by a sense of entitlement. His sole motivation is greed," Napier told the court Wednesday, adding LeClair didn’t voluntarily stop gambling after news broke of his fraud.

Letters from parishioners entered into evidence this week portray an "over-achieving priest" whose responsibilities "mushroomed ... and whose inability to cope was inevitable,” Webber argued Tuesday.