Ex-Catholic priest gets nearly 22 years in prison for attempted sexual abuse of a South Carolina boy

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A former Catholic priest in South Carolina has been sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison for trying to sexually assault a boy and showing him pornography.

Jamie Adolfo Gonzalez-Farias, 69, could have faced a life sentence. Federal Judge Mary Geiger Lewis on Thursday granted part of a defense motion for a lighter prison term and sentenced the priest to 21 years and 10 months in prison, along with lifetime monitoring if he is ever released.

Gonzalez-Farias, who was known in several parishes as “Father Gonzales,” was a priest for more than 30 years after being ordained in his native Chile, according to court records.

He came to the United States in 2001 and was sent in 2020 to serve three small South Carolina churches in Newberry, Joanna and Laurens where he met the family of an 11-year-old boy, federal prosecutors said.

Gonzalez-Farias lavished attention on the boy and his family, giving them gifts and other items. He took the boy on a beach vacation to Florida in November 2020 where he attempted to sexually assault the child, behaved in other sexually inappropriate ways and showed him pornography, FBI agents said.

Gonzalez-Farias pleaded guilty to transporting a minor intending to engage in criminal sexual activity in August. His lawyer asked for a 10-year sentence because his guilty plea kept the boy and his family from having to testify and relive what happened.

The priest wrote a letter to the boy's family, saying he knew he hurt them and was truly sorry about harming him and violating their trust.

“I have failed to God, to our Catholic Church, and to you, who opened the door of your home for me and let your son spend time with me," Gonzalez-Farias wrote.

Included in court papers for the defense were 25 notes of support from people who were in Gonzalez-Farias' churches across the U.S. Some were in Spanish. Many said they couldn't believe he was capable of abusing a child.

Gonzalez-Farias worked in medical technology in Chile before attending spiritual retreats with monks and entering the priesthood, the defense said.

He worked in New Jersey and Florida when he first came to the U.S. in 2001 before going back to Chile. He returned to the U.S. in 2015 and spent five years at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Greer, South Carolina, according to court records.