Child Molesting Priest to Be Sentenced Today
August 24, 2012
A 78-year-old former Catholic priest from Leisure World who pleaded guilty to molesting an altar boy in the 1990s at St. John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa, beginning when the victim was 9 years old, is scheduled to be sentenced today.
Denis Lyons, who left the priesthood in April 2004, is expected to be sentenced to a year in jail and five years probation. Orange County Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno, who accepted the plea agreement the defendant reached with prosecutors, is also expected to order Lyons to complete 400 hours of community service or pay a fine.
Lyons could have faced up to 14 years in prison had he gone to trial.
The trial has been delayed multiple times.
A victim Lyons was not charged with molesting was willing to testify to corroborate the named victim's testimony, but, like the named victim, he wanted to avoid a jury trial, Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown said. He came forward to allege that Lyons molested him when he was 13 to 17 years old, starting in 1979, but charges could not be filed because of the statute of
limitations, she said.
Lyons would have to do 85 percent of the time under today's laws, but it's more likely he would only have to do half the time under laws in place at the time, Brown said.
Lyons pleaded guilty to engaging in masturbation with the victim twice in the parish rectory and twice in the church sacristy from 1992 to 1995, beginning when the boy was 9 and ending when he was 11, Brown said.
Lyons was put on leave from the church in 2002 and charged in 2003 with
molesting another boy, but he couldn't be prosecuted because the case was too old, according to a Supreme Court ruling. The victim sued Lyons in 2008.
The Diocese settled the case for an undisclosed sum.