Defrocked Priest's Sexual Molestation Sentence Overturned
But Assault Conviction Stands for Now

By Pamela J. Podger
San Francisco Chronicle
July 11, 2003

Defrocked Roman Catholic priest Donald Kimball edged toward freedom Thursday after a judge dismissed his seven-year prison term for sexually molesting one of his parishioners in Healdsburg in 1981.

Wearing an orange-colored jumpsuit from San Quentin State Prison, Kimball, 59, sat impassively during the proceedings and listened as Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Cerena Wong denied his release on bail.

Wong ordered him to return to court on Sept. 10, when she will consider his attorney's request for resentencing, and possibly a new trial, on Kimball's assault conviction stemming from an attack on a Chronicle news photographer during a break in his sex molestation trial last year.

Defense lawyer Chris Andrian said the molestation charges had to be overturned because of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last month to strike down provisions of a 1994 California law that had extended the statute of limitations for child molestation and allowed prosecutions years after the crimes took place.

Kimball was convicted in April 2002 of two counts of lewd conduct for fondling Ellen Brem at St. John's Church in Healdsburg in 1981 when she was 13.

"This is not about child abuse and child molesters going free," Andrian said. "It is about constitutional law that the Supreme Court upheld."

On Sept. 10, Andrian said he would file papers that relieve Kimball of the obligation to register as a sex offender. He also intends to have Kimball's DNA samples and other child molestation records removed from the state's criminal justice system.

Michael Perry, who represents Kimball for the assault on photographer Penni Gladstone, said he would urge the judge to consider probation. He said the June 4 sentence to three years in prison needed to be recalculated. It should stand as Kimball's first felony and would no longer include an out-on-bail enhancement. Even so, Kimball could face a maximum of four years in prison because of the assault.

Perry said he believed jurors had found Kimball guilty of the assault on Gladstone in part because they were swayed by the testimony that he was a convicted felon. He said Kimball was "very sorry" for what happened, had written Gladstone an apology, and had learned a lot from the ordeal.

Prosecutor Barry McBride opposed bail for Kimball, saying that the attack was "an unprovoked violent act" and that Kimball was "somewhat of a danger to the community based on his volatile temper."

Kimball will remain in custody in the Sonoma County jail.


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