Ex-Monsignor's Abuse Case from 1972 to Be Dismissed

By Michael Fisher
Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
July 12, 2003

San Bernardino County prosecutors have moved to drop charges against a longtime Inland priest accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl in Highland 30 years ago.

Documents to dismiss the case against Monsignor Patrick O'Keeffe were filed Monday and are awaiting a judge's approval, said Susan Mickey, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County district attorney's office, in a telephone interview.

Prosecutors say they were forced to dismiss the case after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the 1994 California law that allowed authorities to prosecute decades-old cases alleging sexual abuse.

O'Keeffe, 67, faced 15 felony counts of oral copulation with a minor related to allegations involving a 17-year-old parishioner at St. Adelaide Catholic Church in Highland in 1972. He left for his native Ireland shortly before San Bernardino County prosecutors charged him a year ago.

Nicki Rister, the woman who leveled the accusations against O'Keeffe, said Friday that she was disappointed and frustrated by the Supreme Court's ruling.

"It's a slap in the face to all victims, not just me," Rister said Friday by telephone from her Colorado home. "It's not right."

Although The Press-Enterprise generally does not identify possible victims of sexual abuse, Rister gave permission for her name to be used.

O'Keeffe, a priest in San Diego and the Inland area since 1959, worked in the Diocese of San Bernardino since its creation in 1978. The diocese encompasses Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Diocese officials said he was dismissed in 1994 after the diocese reached a confidential settlement in a lawsuit filed by one of three women who accused O'Keeffe of having an affair with them. He retired as a priest in 1999.

The Supreme Court's recent ruling also means charges will be dropped against Donald Farmer, a former Glendale priest accused of molesting four children in Crestline in the mid-1960s, Deputy District Attorney Jane Templeton said by phone.

Farmer, now a Fresno therapist, is next due to appear in court Aug. 11, at which time the case will be dismissed, Templeton said.

On Tuesday, prosecutors dropped charges against Monsignor Peter Luque, 69, who faced 10 felony counts of lewd acts on a child stemming from allegations dating to 1963.


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