Retired Priest Booked in Sex Case
Alleged Victim Accuses Man of Misconduct at St. John the Baptist Church

By Joe Segura
Long Beach Press Telegram [Seal Beach CA]
Downloaded April 26, 2003

SEAL BEACH A retired Roman Catholic priest was arrested Friday in his Leisure World home for alleged sexual misconduct more than 20 years ago with a Costa Mesa boy.

Denis Lyons, 69, is charged with one count of a lewd and lascivious act and four counts of oral copulation with a male under 16 years.

Investigators opened a file last year after being contacted about allegations that most of the acts occurred at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church between 1978-81.

The Orange County district attorney's complaint, filed at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, states the alleged victim, now 38 years old, was a parishioner of the church. He was between 13 and 16 during the encounters, the complaint states.

Lyons befriended the youth's family and would go to their home to discuss family issues with the alleged victim's father, the complaint states.

The priest allegedly made advances on the youth at the home, but the bulk of the alleged misconduct occurred during the priest's counseling sessions, in the church rectory, for drinking problems the youth had in his early teens, according to court documents.

Lyons would often visit the family's home after the session, the DA's complaint adds.

The sessions did not help solve the drinking problem, according to the complaint.

The alleged victim "would often drink alcohol after the sessions to try and forget what had happened,' the complaint added.

Lyons put on leave

Bishop Tod Brown, head of the Catholic Diocese of Orange, put the priest on administrative leave last year, shortly after the allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.

In a prepared statement, the bishop said he plans to cooperate with law enforcement.

"It is heart wrenching that a priest may have engaged in such grave misconduct warranting criminal charges and an arrest,' Brown said.

The diocese's Shirl Giacomi told reporters that Lyons admitted in 1993 to "inappropriate behavior with two adults.' He was evaluated at the time, she said, and it was determined that he was not a pedophile or a risk to children.

Lyons was arrested without incident around 2:45 p.m., said Costa Mesa police Sgt. Zack Hoferitza. The retired priest was booked in the Costa Mesa jail, where he is being held on $100,000 bail.

Attorney Gary Pohlson, retained by Lyons, is working to gain the priest's release pending trial, district attorney spokeswoman Michelle Emard said.

If he remains in custody, Lyons could be arraigned as early as Tuesday, Emard added.

Lyons, if convicted, could face a sentence


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