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  Case against Ex-Pismo Priest Likely to End
Effect of U.S. Supreme Court Decision Is Felt Locally

By Lisa P. White
San Luis Obispo Tribune
July 2, 2003

Charges against a 79-year-old priest accused of repeatedly molesting a boy in Pismo Beach 30 years ago are expected to be dismissed today, according to the District Attorney's Office.

The decision comes after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week, which overturned a California law enacted in 1994, that extended the statute of limitations in such cases.

Under the California law, prosecutors could file charges against alleged child molesters in cases in which the six-year statute of limitations had expired. On a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court found the law unconstitutional, saying it allowed retroactive prosecution in violation of the Constitution.

San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Roger Picquet is expected to rule today on a motion for dismissal from an attorney for the Rev. Gregory Kareta. Given the high court's ruling, the defense and the prosecution said the charges are likely to be dismissed.

Kareta was unavailable for comment Tuesday. The priest is retired, according to his attorney. He lives in rural Arroyo Grande.

Kareta was charged in February with two counts of child molestation for allegedly sexually abusing an 11-year-old altar boy 30 years ago. Kareta was a priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Pismo Beach from 1971 to 1978.

"We anticipated that (Supreme Court) ruling some months back," said Adrian Andrade, Kareta's attorney. "We had filed a motion in this case all along raising those very issues that the court relied on in deciding this case."

Deputy District Attorney Larry Greene was disappointed with the high court's ruling but resigned to his office's ethical and legal obligation to comply with the decision.

"I expect the judge will grant his request to dismiss the case, and we will not oppose the defendant's request because we believe the law mandates a dismissal," said Greene who was the prosecutor on Kareta's case.

Greene said a number of people, mostly parents and others who occupied what he called "positions of special trust" with children, had been charged in the county under the invalidated statute. There have been some convictions, but he guessed that only five or six cases in the county that would fall within the Supreme Court's ruling.

The District Attorney's Office is conducting a review of these cases, which they hope to complete by the end of the week.

Greene had not spoken to the victim in the Kareta case, but he said a victim's advocate from the District Attorney's Office had informed the man of the decision and that it was a "very emotional experience for him."

 
 

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