Priest Ordered Tried in Sex Case
The Clergyman Is Accused of Molesting Two Altar Boys between 1978 and 1984 While Serving at a San Bernardino Church
By Tim Grenda
Press Enterprise [Riverside]
October 20, 2000
San Bernardino — A Catholic priest who once served in San Bernardino was ordered Thursday to stand trial on charges he sexually molested two brothers starting more than 20 years ago when the alleged victims were preteen altar boys.
Edward Lawrence Ball, 62, faces 23 felony counts of committing lewd acts against a child younger than 14. The charges stem from Ball's time at Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church in San Bernardino from 1978 until 1984.
Ball later was pastor at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in San Bernardino and frequently said Mass at other area Catholic churches. Superior Court Judge Robert Macomber ruled after a preliminary hearing that there is sufficient evidence against Ball to hold him for trial.
Macomber dismissed two of the counts against Ball, which had alleged forced oral copulation and sodomy against the younger brother.
The judge also reduced the severity of the remaining counts by removing allegations that Ball used force, fear or threats of violence against the boys in molesting them.
In addition, Macomber ruled Thursday that the statute of limitations does not apply in this case.
Ball was allowed to remain free on bail and ordered to appear in court Oct. 30 to be arraigned on the charges.
Deputy District Attorney Steve Malone said Ball befriended the two brothers — who were two years apart in age — when each boy was about 11 years old.
Ball began molesting each boy at his home after having them over alone to do yard work or help out with other chores, Malone said.
Ball also sexually molested each boy on frequent trips out of state, which were taken with their mother's permission, prosecutors said.
"He had to manipulate their families in order to gain their trust and get the boys into his home," Malone said. "He showered them (with gifts) and seduced them."
The alleged molestation continued until each boy was about 16, with hundreds of individual sexual encounters committed on each boy, Malone said.
Ball's attorney, Philip Kassel, claimed the two alleged victims only made the allegations against Ball because they want money from a civil suit they have filed against the local Catholic diocese that employed Ball.
Ball pleaded guilty in 1993 to molesting three other young boys at another local parish about 10 years after he allegedly molested the two brothers.
He served nine months in jail and the victims later received an undisclosed settlement from the Catholic church.
Kassel said the brothers remained friendly with Ball and continued to write fond letters to him until shortly before they came forward in 1997 to allege Ball had molested them two decades earlier.
The alleged victims are now ages 32 and 29. The younger brother became a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy in 1997, officials said.
Malone said Thursday that Ball molested the boys after earning the trust of their mother, who was divorced and alone raising the two boys and two daughters.
Ball reportedly bought them expensive gifts, including a car given to the older brother just before his 16th birthday, and helped their mother pay bills and buy furniture and appliances.
The boys' mother, identified in court only by her first name, Linda, testified Thursday that she was so impressed with Ball that she tried to talk him into leaving the priesthood so they could get married.
"I cared for him very much," she said.
The mother said she was concerned about the amount of time and attention Ball was paying to her two young sons but was assured by Ball that he had only her boys' best intentions in mind.
"I questioned him about it and he assured me that he thought of them as his own and as such would never do anything to harm them," she testified. "He being a Catholic priest, I trusted him."
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