Protest held in Ohio before sentencing of Saanich priest

Phil Jacobs worked as priest in Columbus in 1970s and 1980s. He's charged in B.C. with touching a young person for a sexual purpose

Phil Jacobs, the former Saanich priest found guilty earlier this year of touching a young person for a sexual purpose, is expected to be sentenced next week in B.C. Supreme Court.

Jacobs worked as priest at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Saanich from 1997 to 2002. He left his post in Greater Victoria after allegations surfaced of inappropriate behaviour involving boys during his time working in Columbus, Ohio in the 1970s.

He was charged by Saanich police in 2010 for incidents that were alleged to have occurred while he worked in Saanich.

On Wednesday, members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests protested in downtown Columbus, attempting to urge B.C. Supreme Court Justice J. Miriam Gropper to hand down a harsh sentence, according to  The Columbus Dispatch.

“We urge victims to come forward quickly, report this to the Canadian judge who will be sentencing Father Jacobs next week,” SNAP member Carol Zamonski told the The Dispatch, while protesting in front of St. Joseph Cathedral in Columbus. “It seems that the maximum sentence might be merely five months, with no accountability that we can see for his future access to people that he might prey on.”

Zamonski also called upon the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus to encourage other victims to speak out, The Dispatch reported.

According to The Dispatch, the Diocese of Columbus has received about 10 credible reports of abuse by Jacobs over the years, and all allegations were shared with police.

Jacobs admitted during testimony in December that he had sexually abused two boys in Ohio, but had attended therapy to control his compulsion to instruct boys on masturbation. He told the court he had a series of inappropriate experiences with teenage boys involving camping trips and masturbation.

Jacobs’ guilty charge stems from testimony regarding tutoring sessions at Jacobs’ house on the grounds of St. Joseph the Worker Parish. The victim said he ended up in a position of laying on the couch with his legs over Jacobs’ lap.

During testimony, the young man told the court that Jacobs’ right hand would slide up and down the witness’s left thigh over his pants – “he went from my knee to my groin back and forth … the back of his hand touched my genitals.”

Gropper agreed with the Crown’s assertion that Jacobs’ touching of the victim’s genitals was “deliberate,” and not accidental brushing.

During a sentencing hearing in July, Crown prosecutor Clare Jennings argued for a four- to six-month prison sentence for Jacobs, following by two years probation. He would also be put on the National Sex Offender Registry, and be included in the National DNA Data Bank.

Defence attorney Chris Considine asked Gropper to consider a conditional sentence, given the incident Jacobs was found guilty of wasn’t “more physical, long-lasting or aggressive” compared to other similar crimes.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Victoria hired Jacobs despite knowing he had been relieved of his duties at a church in Columbus, Ohio, in the early 1990s after admitting to inappropriately touching a teenage boy in the 1980s.

Jacobs’ sentencing happens Wednesday (Sept. 4) at the Victoria Law Courts.

– with files from The Columbus Dispatch and Saanich News

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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