Robert Gamel, the former head of a Los Banos Catholic parish who was convicted last year of child pornography possession, appeared in court Friday to answer new child pornography allegations.
Judge David Moranda denied bail for Gamel, who is accused of violating probation after authorities searched his Merced home last month. The 67-year-old former head of St. Joseph Church in Los Banos did not enter a plea on Friday.
Gamel, known in Los Banos as “Father Bob,” was arrested April 12 for a single felony count of possession of child pornography with a prior conviction, according to Merced County Superior Court records. He also is charged with a separate felony count of violation of probation related to his March 2016 conviction.
Gamel’s attorney, Richard Berger, Merced County deputy public defender, asked the judge to set a bail amount because Gamel had been complying with probation requirements, including reporting his location to officials. The defense attorney argued that Gamel should be allowed to post bail while disputing the new charge.
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Travis Colby, Merced County deputy district attorney, argued that while the April probation search yielded evidence for a new charge, it was directly related to Gamel’s probation conditions.
Prosecutors have not commented specifically on details of the new charges, but have confirmed the alleged images found April 12 are separate from his case last year.
Gamel was the lead priest of the Los Banos parish for about five years. He pleaded no contest last year to a single felony count of possession of child pornography and served about six months in the Merced County Jail. Colby, who also prosecuted the original case against Gamel, argued for the former community leader to serve the maximum sentence of three years in state prison.
Church officials have said Gamel has been “indefinitely removed” from the ministry. Reports from an internal probe are expected to be sent to the Vatican in Rome to determine Gamel’s future status with the church.
Gamel’s arraignment was rescheduled for May 12. He remains in custody at the John Latorraca Correctional Facility in Merced County.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562