Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
July 21, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
RETIRED PRIEST CHARGED WITH MASTURBATION-MOLEST OF 7-YEAR-OLD MALE PARISHIONER
INSIDE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND IN
PRIESTS’ LIVING QUARTERS
*Criminal complaint was filed against same defendant in 2003 accusing him of molesting three other young male parishioners; Case dismissed by U.S. Supreme Court decision
NEWPORT BEACH – The Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) filed charges today against a retired priest with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County for molesting a young boy more than a decade ago in the rectory and sacristy at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Costa Mesa. Denis Lyons, 75, Seal Beach, has been charged with four felony counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 with a sentencing enhancement allegation for substantial sexual conduct with a child. If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum sentence of 14 years in state prison. Lyons is being held on $100,000 bail and is expected to be arraigned tomorrow, Wednesday, July 22, 2009, at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach. The time and Department are to be determined.
“Our community has waited a long time for justice from this defendant. These types of crimes rob children of innocence and normal rites of passage into adulthood,” said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “For the last 10 years as I have served as the District Attorney, this Office has prosecuted a judge, police officers, teachers, religious leaders, coaches, and many others who hold positions of power and trust in our community. Our entire community feels great regret and sadness when these people are charged with these types of crimes, but it does remind us that no one is above the law. No matter what job they have or what position they hold in society, they should expect to face prosecution if they perpetrate these crimes.”
Sexual Assault of John Doe #1
Between Jan. 1, 1992, and Dec. 31, 1995, Lyons is accused of molesting a young male student, John Doe #1, while the victim was a second and third grade student at St. John the Baptist Catholic School. The school was part of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Costa Mesa, where Lyons served as a priest.
On four occasions, Lyons is accused of sexually assaulting the 7 to 9-year-old John Doe #1 by engaging in masturbation with the victim twice in his room in the parish rectory and twice in the church sacristy. A rectory is the residence and administrative office for the parish priests of a church. A sacristy is a room inside the church used to store religious garments, church documents, and sacred vessels.
In July 2008, an attorney, who had been hired by John Doe #1 to represent him in a civil case, contacted the OCDA to report that John Doe #1 had been molested by Lyons. John Doe #1 personally filed a report with the Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) in September 2008.
Prior Sexual Assault Case and Subsequent Supreme Court Ruling