Priest Pleads Guilty to Molesting 2 North Coast Boys
Most of Original 17 Charges Dismissed

By Erik Ingram
San Francisco Chronicle
July 11, 1996

A contrite and apologetic Roman Catholic priest who was accused of molesting more than a dozen youngsters pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd conduct with teenage boys yesterday and could face as much as eight years in state prison.

The Rev. Gary Timmons, 55, admitted one felony charge and one misdemeanor charge. As part of a plea bargain with Sonoma County authorities, a third charge will be dismissed when he is sentenced on September 6 in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Most of Sonoma County's original 17 charges against Timmons, who worked in North Coast churches for 30 years, were dismissed earlier this year because the incidents took place too long ago to be prosecuted.

The charges he admitted to yesterday stemmed from a 1989 camping trip near Bodega Bay, where he molested two youngsters who served as altar boys at his Rohnert Park church, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church.

Yesterday's proceedings were before Marin County Judge John Sutro, who was assigned to the case after Sonoma County's bench disqualified itself because one of the judges is the father of a victim.

According to Barry McBride, the deputy Sonoma County district attorney who prosecuted the case, Timmons apologized to his victims and their families, his family and friends and his parishioners during his brief court appearance.

"It was important he apologize so the healing process (for the victims) could begin," McBride said, adding that it also served to counter charges from some Timmons supporters that the priest was the target of a witch hunt.

McBride said he will recommend that Timmons be sent to prison, but declined to say whether he will recommend that the priest serve the maximum sentence, saying he wants to review the probation report first.

Timmons remains free on bail pending his sentencing.

The priest, who was suspended from his duties two years ago, still faces a separate molestation charge in Humboldt County.

That charge, a single felony count, involves a 15-year-old Crescent City high school student who alleges that Timmons fondled him four years ago during an overnight visit at St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Eureka, where Timmons was pastor.

When allegations that he molested boys first became public two years ago, Timmons denied any wrongdoing. Authorities later disclosed that his diary contained an entry admitting that he is a molester.

He was arrested last fall in Chicago on 17 felony counts arising from complaints by two men who said he fondled their genitals while they were youngsters attending a church youth camp in the 1970s.

In all, 20 men publicly accused Timmons of molesting them as children, and 11 filed civil lawsuits against the priest and the Roman Catholic Church.

Timmons and the church eventually settled most of those lawsuits.

Timmons served in various clerical jobs in Humboldt, Mendocino and Sonoma counties for more than 25 years before being suspended in 1994.


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