Charges Dropped against Ex-Priest

By Larry Welborn
Orange County Register (California)
July 19, 2003

Child molestation charges against a former priest were dropped Friday because of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that bars the prosecution of long-ago sex cases.

Deputy District Attorney Beth Costello told an Orange County Superior Court judge that the ruling prevented her from prosecuting Denis Lyons, 69, on four counts of molestation involving a teenage boy more than 20 years ago at St. John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa and at the boy's home.

Lyons "is tremendously relieved," said defense attorney Gary Pohlson. "He has always denied the allegations, but now he doesn't have to go through with a trial."

Lyons was arrested in April after the accuser reported to police that he had been sexually abused.

A 1994 change in state law gave prosecutors a year to file child molestation charges from the time the accusations were reported to authorities. But last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that charges cannot be brought if the statute of limitations had expired.

Lyons is the third former priest to have pending charges dropped in Orange County because of the ruling. Prosecutors dropped cases earlier against John Lenihan, accused of having unlawful sex with a 16-year-old girl between 1978 and 1980, and Gerald Plesetz, who had been accused of molesting a teenage girl in Dana Point in the early 1970s.


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