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  $5 Million Bail Stands for Ex-Priest
Judge Cites Serious Nature of Molestation Charges

By Susan Sward
San Francisco Chronicle
April 22, 2000

Citing the gravity of the charges, a San Francisco Superior Court judge rejected a defense plea yesterday to reduce the $5 million bail for a defrocked Catholic priest facing 224 counts of child molestation.

Judge Robert Dondero made his ruling despite a plea from the attorney for former Msgr. Patrick O'Shea to have bail cut to $50,000. James Collins argued that O'Shea was not a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Deputy District Attorney Linda Klee opposed Collins' request, arguing that the 67-year-old O'Shea must know that the chances are good that he will be convicted and face "incarceration until he dies."

Prosecutors have said that there are nine male victims in the case and that they were between 10 and 18 when the alleged molestations took place between 1964 and 1980.

In keeping bail at $5 million, Dondero said the charges against O'Shea are, "outside of the crime of murder, as serious as any existing in the code."

As the lawyers made their arguments, the white-haired O'Shea — clothed in bright orange jail sweatshirt and pants — stood silently beside Collins. Afterward, he was returned to his cell in County Jail next to the Hall of Justice.

O'Shea had been scheduled to be arraigned and enter a plea yesterday, but Collins asked that the arraignment be put off until May 24 because he has not read the grand jury transcript in the case.

In response to Collins' bail reduction motion, Klee filed an eight- page document giving the most detail yet on the charges against O'Shea.

She said that 214 of the allegations involve oral copulation, sodomy and masturbation with children 10 to 14. Ten other charges involve oral copulation and sodomy with children under 18.

"These acts involved altar boys under the defendant's care and occurred wherever the defendant had control of children, including in San Francisco churches, in the Elks Club on Oak Street and other locations outside the city such as Palm Springs, Lake Berryessa and Squaw Valley," Klee wrote.

She added that O'Shea also traveled widely with his alleged victims outside the United States, including to Mexico, Canada and Europe. "He even took one victim to visit relatives in Ireland," she wrote. "Therefore, the defendant has both reason to flee and the ability to leave the country."

Although the allegations stem from incidents more 20 years ago, Klee alleged that O'Shea's sexual relationship with one of the youths continued until 1987 when he was 20. She said O'Shea gave the youth "copious amounts of alcohol" to get him to submit to his desires.

She said she plans to present testimony from other alleged victims who did not have "substantial sex" with O'Shea but can "testify as to the occurrence of other similar acts from 1964-1980."

O'Shea, who was ordained in 1958, worked his way up to become pastor of St. Cecilia's parish in the Sunset District and an adviser to former Archbishop John Quinn.

He had been charged twice previously in the molestation case — once in 1995 and once in 1998 — before he was indicted again last week. When O'Shea learned of the indictment, he turned himself over last weekend to the FBI in Oroville, where he was visiting a niece, Collins said.

In a separate case, the San Francisco Archdiocese alleges that O'Shea embezzled almost $260,000 from the church before he was stripped of his clerical duties in 1995.

Before this indictment, O'Shea's lawyers had blocked any molestation charges from going to trial — primarily by arguing that the alleged crimes occurred so long ago that the statute of limitations had run out. In the earlier cases, O'Shea has pleaded not guilty.

Last year the state Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, held that people accused of child molestation could be prosecuted many years after the crimes took place.

Klee cited this ruling in her argument against bail reduction, saying that O'Shea had to be aware that his chances of going to prison forever were now quite good. Before this ruling changed the legal odds, Klee said, O'Shea "did not think he would spend a day in jail."

Collins acknowledged that the charges were "about as serious as you can get." But he said in the past legal battles his client was free on a $10,000 bail and made all his court appearances.

He said O'Shea has no passport, is not a citizen of any other country and has only a brother and sister who live in the Bay Area.

 
 

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