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  Priest to Be Tried on Rape, Molestation Charges
Women Say They Were Assaulted As Girls

By Jim Doyle
San Francisco Chronicle
November 16, 2000

A Sonoma County judge ruled yesterday that a Roman Catholic priest must stand trial on criminal charges that he raped a 14-year-old Santa Rosa girl and sexually molested another girl beginning when she was 11 years old.

The Rev. Donald Kimball, an inactive priest and former youth minister, faces a sentence of as long as seven years in prison if convicted on all three felony counts involving the two girls.

After a weeklong preliminary hearing, Judge Patricia Gray ruled that there was "sufficient and compelling evidence" that Kimball should face a jury trial on one felony count of rape and two felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under the age of 14.

Gray plans to rule on whether Kimball is entitled to bail when he is arraigned Nov. 29. The prosecutor insists that Kimball is a danger to the community, while his lawyer says that he should remain free because the alleged crimes took place 20 years ago.

Kimball, 57, has pleaded not guilty.

"We're very satisfied that the right decision was made today and it's a milestone in a statute of limitations case," said Deputy District Attorney Gary Medivigy. "We're one step closer to bringing the defendant to justice."

A California law enacted in 1997 allows the prosecution of certain sex crimes in situations where the statute of limitations has expired -- as they had in this case. The alleged crimes were committed in the 1970s and '80s.

Defense attorney Chris Andrian said he would appeal the decision on various legal grounds, including the judge's interpretation of case law involving the statute of limitations.

He also said the charges against Kimball should be dismissed because of Gray's decision to allow the prosecutor to present hearsay testimony regarding secondary witnesses -- without producing the live witnesses and allowing the defense lawyer to cross-examine them.

During the preliminary hearing, a Santa Rosa woman testified that Kimball had raped her in 1977 on the floor of a chapel when she was 14 years old. Another Santa Rosa woman testified that Kimball molested her on three occasions in the early 1980s when she was between the ages of 11 and 13.

The two women, whose full names were withheld for reasons of privacy, testified that they met Kimball when he became a parish priest and youth counselor at Resurrection Church in Santa Rosa.

One of the two women was a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit that was filed by four plaintiffs who contend that Kimball molested them in the 1970s and '80s. In April, the Roman Catholic Church agreed to pay a $1.6 million settlement to the four plaintiffs: two men and two women. Kimball was excluded from the settlement discussions.

David Knecht, a Santa Rosa police detective, testified yesterday that he had interviewed six additional men and women from Santa Rosa and Eureka who say that Kimball molested them when they were teenagers. Two of the six were plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit:

-- A 36-year-old Santa Rosa man told the detective that Kimball sodomized him on several occasions during a church-sponsored trip to Minnesota in 1981 when he was 17.

-- A 38-year-old Santa Rosa woman said Kimball molested her in 1977 while he served as her church counselor when she was 15.

-- A 41-year-old Eureka woman said Kimball molested her in 1977.

-- A 46-year-old Eureka woman said Kimball molested her in a church rectory when she was 17.

-- A 35-year-old Santa Rosa woman said Kimball attempted to molest her when they swam together at the Russian River when she was 13 or 14.

-- A 36-year-old Santa Rosa woman said Kimball served her wine and molested her in 1979 when she was 15. She said the priest later called her to apologize.

Defense lawyer Andrian discounted the detective's testimony. "It's my knowledge and belief that all those people have been in contact with each other and talked about the lawsuit," he said.

He contends that some of the witnesses have based their allegations on recovered memories.

Two days ago, a Santa Rosa man testified that Kimball molested him on four occasions when he was about 14 years old. The man, now 36, was a plaintiff in the lawsuit

 
 

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