Priest Molestation Case Likely to Be Dropped
June 27, 2003

Vista � The case against an ex-Oceanside priest accused of molesting a boy in 1971 probably won't go forward because of a Supreme Court decision banning the prosecution of old cases, a deputy attorney general said today.

Harold Depp, 72, was arrested May 29 at his Palm Springs home, after the man he allegedly abused in 1971 and 1972 went to authorities because he had heard that Depp was working with children in California.

The Supreme Court yesterday struck down a California law that revived criminal prosecutions in sexual abuse cases in which the statute of limitations had run out.

The high court ruling means Depp is not expected to be prosecuted for his alleged crimes more than 30 years ago, said Deputy Attorney General Peter Quon Jr.

"It is true that the charges I filed against him will probably be dismissed," the prosecutor said.,

But Depp � who's being held in lieu of $1 million bail � will still face one count of failing to register as a sex offender, Quon said.

The former priest was charged with 40 counts of sexual molestation, sodomy and oral copulation with a minor under 14 in connection with the alleged crimes in the 1970s.

Quon said he will probably ask a judge to formally dismiss the charges on the day already scheduled for Depp's preliminary hearing � July 15.

Depp was a visiting priest in 1971 to 1972 at St. Charles Priory, which is now called Prince of Peace Abbey.

The former priest did not stay long at the priory but rented apartments in Oceanside, where he continued molesting the boy, Quon alleged.

The prosecutor said Depp has eight convictions stemming from sex abuse charges in Unalaska, Alaska, making him eligible for life in prison if convicted of the failure to register charge.

There is a chance a judge will not take the past convictions and apply them to the current case under the "three strikes" law, Quon said.

"I would be surprised if a judge sentenced him to 25 years to life as a 'three-strike' sentence," the prosecutor said.


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