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  18 Area Sex Abuse Cases to Be Tossed
Court Ruling Also Affects Convictions

By Chris T. Nguyen
San Bernardino Sun
July 2, 2003

Eighteen people charged or convicted of child molestation in San Bernardino County will have their cases dismissed or convictions overturned in response to a landmark ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week banning theprosecution of sex crimes beyond the statute of limitations also has forced authorities to halt investigations into old suspected molestations.

"Our office finds it extremely frustrating that we have todismiss these cases,' Assistant District Attorney Mike Risley said Wednesday.

"But the main frustration,' Risley said, "lies with the impactit's having on the victims. We've had these victims who've come forward and reveal something that people don't want to reveal. And now because of this decision, they get no justice.'

The high court, in a 2001 case involving a 72-year-old mancharged with molesting his daughters about 50 years ago, struck down a 1994 California law allowing prosecutors to disregard the statute of limitations for incidents alleged to have happened decades ago.

On Wednesday, the District Attorney's Office announced that theruling affects a total of 18 people in pending or completed cases. Of the 18, only a few are in custody.

Four are Roman Catholic priests.

One is The Rev. Edward Lawrence Ball, a former priest at two SanBernardino churches. Convicted of molesting two brothers in the 1970s and 1980s, Ball was finishing a three-year prison term.

But Risley said prosecutors are asking a judge to keep him behindbars because they argue he is a violent sex predator. Ball, awaiting a court hearing on his release, is at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

"He's not amenable to be released into society,' Risley said.

One of the people affected by the ruling was a male Redlandsschool teacher. Another man is in police custody in Minnesota on separate child molestation charges in that state.

In response to the court ruling, the Sheriff's Department hasstopped 10 investigations into suspected child molesters, said Sgt. Jack Trotter, supervisor of the sheriff's crimes against children unit.

He said the alleged acts in some cases date as far back as 40years. A majority of the cases, he added, involve female suspects. The alleged victims were kids or teenagers at the time.

"I understand their decision but the cases we were puttingtogether ... many times we had confessions,' Trotter said.

He said the unit's seven investigators spent an average of 25hours on each case. But, he noted, they're not giving up entirely. Rather, they're seeking counseling for the victims and families.

"It's tough for law enforcement,' Trotter said. "The families - they're not able to get their justice.'

Risley said it's possible prosecutors may charge some of thepeople affected by the court ruling with other crimes that may have been dropped in an effort to have them convicted of more serious counts.

"That raises an issue that we have conceptually talked about butwe don't have a clear direction,' he said.

Meanwhile, Risley and police investigators say the ruling hasalso prompted them to stop following up on complaints of child abuse that occurred long ago.

Child Molestation Cases

The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Officewill dismiss charges against, or move to have the convictions overturned for, 18 people in child molestation cases. The move comes after last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling against prosecuting old sex crimes.

Defendants whose charges will be dismissed:

Donald Farmer, 65: Former priest of Holy Family Catholic Churchin Glendale. Charged with molesting four Crestline preteens in the 1960s.

Monsignor Peter Luque, 68: Worked in the San Bernardino Diocesefor 40 years. Charged with sexually assaulting two teenage boys in San Bernardino and Colton in the 1960s.

Monsignor Patrick J. O'Keefe, 68: Charged with molesting NickiRister in 1972, then a 17-year-old parishioner at St. Adelaide Catholic Church in Highland. O'Keefe, believed to be in Ireland, is also being sued over the alleged molestation of a 14-year-old girl in 1990.

Kenneth Miller Daniel, 60: A Redlands teacher charged withmolesting four girls in the 1970s and 1980s.

Patricia Wesslund, 50. A Crestline woman charged with engaging insex with her biological son, daughter and a former neighbor from 1974 to 1984.

Charles Gentz of Victorville: In custody in Minnesota on childmolestation charges in that state.

Eli Mellor

Adam Wood

Jefferson McCurdy

Defendants whose molestation charges will be dismissed but who faceother charges:

Delbert Karper: San Bernardino man charged with molesting hisdaughter when she was about 5.

Charles Wesslund, 63: Crestline man charged with molesting wife'skids and a neighbor. His gun and drug charges will remain.

Marc Clonch, Rancho Cucamonga

Simon Hernandez, Fontana

George Zavala, Fontana

Lowell Lowe, Barstow

Those whose convictions will be overturned:

The Rev. Edward Ball: Former priest at Our Lady of FatimaCatholic Church and Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, both in San Bernardino. Charged with molesting five boys, including four altar boys, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Francisco Espinoza: Sentenced to three-year prison term in March.

Benjamin King, Joshua Tree

 
 

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