Ex-priest Gets Year in Jail for Molestation

By Peter Larson
Orange County Register
August 24, 2012

A mother cried Friday morning as an Orange County judge sentenced the retired priest who pleaded guilty to molesting her son almost 20 years ago.

Denis Lyons, 78, of Seal Beach, previously admitted to charges of molesting a 7- to 9-year-old boy at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Costa Mesa between 1992 and 1995 for four felony counts of lewd conduct with a child younger than 14.

Denis Lyons, 78, of Seal Beach, a retired priest, appeared in Superior Court in Santa Ana Friday morning for sentencing after he pleaded guilty to charges of molesting two boys nearly two decades ago.

Lyons pleaded guilty in an agreement with prosecutors that allowed him to avoid a potential 14-year prison sentence if convicted at trial.

Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno ordered Lyons on Friday to serve one year in county jail beginning Oct. 12, followed by five years' probation. He must also complete lifetime sex offender registration and serve 400 hours of community service.

Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown said in March when Lyons pleaded guilty that her office considered the victim's wishes to resolve the case without going through the ordeal of a publicized trial.

Brown read impact statements from two people who said they had been victims to the court. The first said: "My life became a living hell because of this man. ... This man is not a righteous man. This man is not a good man. This man is pure evil."

That man's mother spoke in court Friday and said the pain and shame her son felt cut him off from the church, his school and his family, and caused him to turn to drug and alcohol abuse for relief.

"The sexual abuse of Denis Lyons caused him to die inside himself," she said.

A second man came forward to corroborate the case; however, Lyons was not charged with any offense in that case. The man wrote that he is a survivor now, not a victim, but he still would never forgive Lyons for sexually abusing him as a child.

In the past the Diocese of Orange has paid more than $4 million to settle sex-abuse lawsuits involving Lyons. The most recent settlement for an undisclosed amount was reached in February 2009.

The judge cautioned Lyons that if he violates any of the terms and conditions of his probation he could still face up to 14 years in prison.

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