Former priest sentenced to 5 years in prison for child abuse in Louisiana

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A Louisiana court has sentenced a former Catholic priest who pleaded guilty to two state criminal counts of child molestation to five years in prison.

Patrick Wattigny, 55, pleaded guilty in Covington on Wednesday, New Orleans news outlets reported. He was sentenced after a statement was filed in court by a victim describing the harm caused by the sexual abuse.

Wattigny was a priest at St. Tammany Parish when the minors were abused. The victim told the court that when he began studying at a Catholic elementary school in the parish in 1996, Wattigny was a father figure and friend. But Wattigny's behavior became increasingly inappropriate and he eventually abused him.

The victim, now 36, said the abuse has affected him his entire life.

β€œI struggled tremendously to maintain relationships as I wasn't sure what constituted a sin and what didn't. I never knew who I could trust. I felt numb and apathetic towards life, ”he detailed.

The victim added that at times he even considered committing suicide.

The victim's lawyer, William Arata, later told reporters that his client thought five years behind bars is too lenient, but was glad "this priest is no longer on the streets."

The Associated Press generally does not reveal the identity of people who say they were victims of sexual assault.

Judge John Keller sentenced Wattigny to two concurrent 15-year prison terms, but suspended 10 years of each. Wattigny will serve five years in prison, another five years of probation and must also register as a sex offender.

Wattigny was ousted as a priest in 2020 amid a disciplinary investigation into inappropriate text messages he sent to a student.

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