Prosecutors Drop Move against Priest:
Free: an Effort to Commit Him to a Mental Hospital Is Deemed to Be Short of Evidence

By Tim Grenda
Press Enterprise [Riverside]
August 16, 2003

San Bernardino — Prosecutors on Friday halted their efforts to have a Catholic priest convicted of molesting altar boys 30 years ago committed to a state mental hospital.

Prosecutors had hoped to prove that Edward Lawrence Ball, 64, is a sexually violent predator and unfit for release after he served about four years in prison on a molestation conviction involving boys at Our Lady of Assumption and Our Lady of Fatima Catholic churches in San Bernardino in the 1970s and '80s.

"We have no evidence," said Deputy District Attorney Michael Kewin, shrugging his shoulders.

Ball could have been confined in Atascadero State Hospital until doctors there deemed him fit for release.

But two court-appointed psychologists who examined Ball determined that he is not a sexually violent predator, which forced prosecutors to cancel a trial that had been scheduled to begin in November.

According to state law, a sexually violent predator is a person who suffers from a diagnosed mental disorder that makes him likely to molest others if released from custody without further treatment.

Ball smiled broadly and nodded his head after a judge dismissed his case. He was to be released Friday night from the West Valley Detention Center, officials said.

"He's very humble and pleased," said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Pamela King.

The mother of two brothers whom Ball admitted molesting in the 1980s expressed disappointment and frustration with the decision.

"I just think that justice has not been served," she said. "He needs to be kept behind bars. He needs to be in a state institution."

The mother's name is being withheld to protect the identities of her sons.

Ball's conviction in the brothers' case was dismissed recently because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling which limits prosecution of some old sex crimes. Ball served nearly his entire three-year prison sentence for that case and was being held until the prosecution's effort to have him confined was resolved.

Ball reportedly plans to live out of state after his release, but King declined to say where. Ball was living at a monastery near Chicago before his 1999 arrest on the most recent child molestation charges.

He must register as a sex offender with authorities wherever he lives and will continue to receive intensive psychological counseling, his attorney said.

"Edward Ball has received a tremendous amount of treatment," King said.

Last month, the San Bernardino Diocese and the Illinois-based religious order to which Ball belongs agreed to pay $ 4.2 million to settle a civil lawsuit brought on behalf of the brothers.

"No amount of prison time or money can undo what he did to my boys," the mother said. "God will take care of him. He will pay."


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