Survivors network urge DA to keep sex offender ex-priest behind bars

KRON-TV [San Francisco CA]

April 28, 2022

By Alex Baker

A survivors group for victims of abuse by priests sent a letter to an East Bay district attorney asking that a defrocked priest, who sexually abused children and is currently charged with vehicular manslaughter, be kept behind bars. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, SNAP, sent the letter to Contra Costa DA Diana Becton regarding Stephen Kiesle, a defrocked priest who served time for sexually abusing children and is currently charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol.

“We believe Mr. Kiesle is both dangerous and a threat, as well as a flight risk,” said the letter from SNAP Survivor Coordinator, Melanie Sakoda. “In addition to the criminal charges referenced above, he is currently named in about fifteen civil lawsuits that target his formal employer, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, for abuse that Mr. Kiesel perpetrated as a priest, as a deacon, as a seminarian, or as a volunteer.”

Kiesle, 75, is currently charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of alcohol, and special allegations for prior felonies, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.

Walnut Creek Police say that Kiesle was driving in Rossmoor on the night of April 16 when he struck 64-year-old Curtis Gunn and his wife Laurelyn on a sidewalk. Mrs. Gunn survived with only minor injuries. Mr. Gunn was transported to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Kiesle was arrested and booked into the Martinez Detention Facility. Decades earlier, he was at the center of sexual abuse allegations when he was an Oakland Dioceses priest in the 1970s and ’80s. He was removed as a member of the clergy by future Pop Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The SNAP letter urges the DA to keep him locked up and says his bail should not be reduced, despite Kiesle’s attorney saying he was “not dangerous” at his arraignment.

“The opportunity for Mr. Kiesle to be free pending his criminal trial, comes with the risk that he could again drink and drive. Moreover, as a registered sex offender with two convictions for child sexual abuse, boys and girls are also at risk when Mr. Kiesle is free,” said Sakoda’s letter. “We believe that as a man with really nothing left to lose, the harm he could do to innocent lives if free cannot be ignored.”

Kiesle was previously charged by the Contra Cost County DA with 13 counts of child molestation from the 1970s. In 2004, he was sentenced to six years for molesting a girl in Truckee, CA. In 2010, he was released from prison, registered as a sex offender and moved to Rossmoor.

“We beg your office to use every tool at its disposal to keep Mr. Kiesle behind bars. If he must be released, we request that his passport be handed in, that he wears an ankle monitor, and that he be kept on home detention,” Sakoda’s letter concluded.

Kiesle was arraigned in Martinez on Thursday. Prosecutors had asked for his bail to remain at $600,000. Victims had been advocating for both the bail to remain high and for Kiesle to be given an ankle bracelet. Neither happened. The presiding judge reduced the bail to $250,000 and his attorney said he would be making bail.

Kiesle will be due back in court in June.