3 More Marin Molest Cases Dropped

By Con Garretson
Marin Independent Journal
July 3, 2003

Criminal charges were dismissed yesterday against three men - including one former and one current Catholic priest - whose child molestation cases resulted from a state statute of limitations exemption ruled unconstitutional last week by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marin Superior Court Judge Verna Adams granted the dismissal motions filed by the District Attorney's Office for the Rev. Jerome Paul Leach, former priest Guy Murnig and Robert Fleak, who also had a previously entered guilty plea formally withdrawn.

Neither the defendants nor their attorneys were present for the brief proceedings yesterday.

Five of the six men charged in Marin during the past year as a result of the state law were accused of wrongdoing that reportedly occurred while they were acting as Catholic clergy. All of them had been previously released from custody.

On Tuesday, another judge dismissed criminal charges against the Rev. Milton Walsh, 50, of Menlo Park, who had been ordered to stand trial on charges that he repeatedly fondled a 12-year-old altar boy during a visit to his former Novato parish in 1984.

Prosecutors are expected to file dismissal motions in the coming weeks for two other priests - the Rev. Arthur Harrison and the Rev. Gregory Ingels - more recently charged with decades-old sex crimes against children.

Murnig, 59, of Petaluma, left the priesthood in 1978 and married a former Marin Catholic High School student he met as a teacher at the Kentfield private school.

The alleged victim in Murnig's case met him when she joined the Teen Club of St. Sebastian's Church in 1970 when she was 14 or 15 and a student at Redwood High School. She reported having an extended sexual relationship with the then-priest, including repeated liaisons at both the church and at Marin Catholic.

Murnig had waived a preliminary hearing and was scheduled to go to trial later this month for sodomy by use of force and three other sex felonies that carried a maximum nine-year prison sentence.

Leach, 52, of Corte Madera, had been awaiting a preliminary hearing on two counts of committing a lewd act on a child stemming from allegations that he sexually abused a 12-year-old altar boy over 10 months during the five years he was assigned to St. Patrick's Church in Larkspur in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He has been on suspension from active ministry since May 1993 when he was accused of molesting a boy at All Souls Church in South San Francisco while working there as a deacon in 1976, the same year he was ordained.

Fleak, 75, of Rohnert Park, pleaded guilty to three felony counts of committing a lewd and lascivious act upon a child under the age of 14 and one count of sodomy of a person under 18, charges that could have carried a maximum 15-year prison sentence at a hearing scheduled for this month.

The alleged victim in Fleak's case reported being repeatedly molested between 1977 and 1979 when he was on a Novato-based lacrosse team coached by Fleak, who has been a registered sex offender since 1984 after being convicted of molesting another player.

Assistant District Attorney Ed Berberian said dismissal hearings have not yet been scheduled for Harrison or Ingels.

Harrison, 72, of Brookdale in Santa Cruz County, was charged in May with molesting a 10-year-old girl in 1961 while he served at Our Lady of Loretto Church in Novato.

Ingels, 60, of Menlo Park, was charged with molesting a 15-year-old Marin Cath-olic High School student 30 years ago while he taught at the Kentfield campus. Ingels, a lawyer, co-wrote a guide for church leaders about disciplining sexually abusive priests.

Prosecutors are continuing to review several years of criminal records to determine whether anyone else was prosecuted under the now-unconstitutional state law, Berberian said.


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