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  Angry Priest Lashes out
Sex-Trial Defendant Booked after Confrontation with Photographer

By Pamela J. Podger
San Francisco Chronicle
April 10, 2002

After a key ruling went against him yesterday in his rape and molestation trial, a Santa Rosa priest stormed out of the courtroom and lashed out at a news photographer by shoving her camera into her face.

The attack halted proceedings on the high-profile case for about four hours as Donald Wren Kimball, 58, was booked on a charge of felony assault with a deadly weapon.

Complicating matters further, one juror saw Kimball escorted by two bailiffs back into the courtroom after the attack and told this to other jurors. At one point, the chaotic events teetered toward a mistrial, and the day ended with the defense lawyer saying he was still considering such a motion.

Kimball faces a criminal charge of raping a 14-year-old girl in 1977 in Santa Rosa and two charges of lewd conduct for allegedly molesting a 13-year-old girl in 1981 at a Healdsburg rectory.

Yesterday's proceedings began with a victory for the prosecution when Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Gayle Guynup ruled that a new witness can testify about how Kimball had asked her to lie about their sexual encounters in a 2000 civil disposition. The 41-year-old woman, a former foster child, testified at the end of the day that she had been molested before she met Kimball at age 15 and then had sexual relations with him from ages 15 to 21.

Kimball appeared agitated by Guynup's decision to allow the woman's testimony and barged out of the courtroom during a lunch break with his supporters.

Inside the hallway of the Sonoma County courthouse Kimball spotted Chronicle photographer Penni Gladstone, 48, taking pictures of him, pushed the camera into her face and then hurled it about 6 feet, striking Santa Rosa Press Democrat reporter Clark Mason, who was not injured.

Gladstone's right cheek was cut just below her eye, and her glasses were broken. She was given first aid to stop the bleeding and went to a local emergency room for treatment.

One witness, Cindy Waugh, a legal secretary for Kimball's defense attorney Chris Andrian, said she had heard the defendant then say, "I only touched the camera -- I didn't touch anyone."

While no jurors saw the alleged assault, one juror told the judge that he returned from lunch early and saw Kimball being by two bailiffs.

The juror, brought back into the courtroom alone for questioning by Judge Guynup, told the judge he mentioned what he had seen to a few other jurors.

When the entire jury reassembled in the courtroom, Guynup told them that Kimball had been involved in an altercation with the news media and had been arrested. She admonished the jury not to give any consideration to the incident during their deliberations, which are expected to start later this week.

Gladstone, a 20-year news photographer, said she had never before been physically attacked while doing her job.

"I remember him yelling 'you don't need to do that' before he wrenched the camera out of my hand and threw it," Gladstone said. "I've had Harley guys come at me and be very verbal, but nobody has ever raised a hand."

Gladstone was recuperating last night in her Mill Valley home after doctors assured her nothing was broken and gave her a tetanus shot. Kimball was released from Sonoma County jail on $30,000 bail. His arraignment on the assault charge is scheduled for tomorrow.

As the trial resumed in late afternoon, the new witness testified emotionally about how Kimball had urged her during two face-to-face meetings and one phone call to lie about their sexual encounters.

The woman described how she had clandestinely met Kimball in his quarters after youth group meetings or how he had picked her up after school. As she grew older, she said, she would sneak in a side door at St. John's church in Healdsburg for secret sexual relations. She also helped Kimball with his nationally celebrated music ministry.

The witness testified that Kimball had met with her at a restaurant in Dixon and at a Mexican restaurant in Santa Rosa, where he asked her to deny their affair in any legal proceedings.

"Father Don wanted me to lie for him under oath and say nothing happened between us," she said. "When I told him that I had told the truth, he said, 'I thought you were my friend.' I just said I can't take this anymore . . . and I just hung up and haven't talked to him ever since."

She said she wasn't part of the civil lawsuit, which the Roman Catholic Church settled for $1.6 million in 2000, because she was "in denial" that Kimball had had sexual relations with other youth.

"I've had a close friendship with him for 25 years and a sexual relationship for only six years. . . . He was like a dad," she said. "It was really hard. I thought I was special to him."

Prosecutor Gary Medvigy said at the end of the day that the woman's testimony had hit its mark. "She was very effective," he said. "The evidence of him trying to get her to lie was pretty damaging."

Kimball's attorney, Chris Andrian, said her testimony was peripheral to the case.

Andrian also said Kimball's attack on the photographer was damaging to the molestation trial and suggested to the court that the jury might be tainted. He stopped short of motioning for a mistrial, but said he was considering that.

"It was probably the worst day in my life as a lawyer," he said.

 
 

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