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US accused priests to go free after Supreme Court ruling

In the wake of a US Supreme Court ruling last week, the state of California is dropping charges against former Catholic priests accused of molesting children years ago.

On Thursday the Court struck down a California law that allowed prosecutions for old sex crimes in spite of restrictions imposed by statutes of limitations. The ruling was perceived as a defeat for prosecutors trying to pursue priests accused of long-ago sex abuse.

Since the ruling, judges in Los Angeles have ordered Carlos Rodriguez released after nine months. He was charged with molesting a 12-year-old boy in 1986 and 1987. The same is expected for a large number of others accused of sex abuse.

In Los Angeles County, the district attorney's office was organising a meeting of its sex crimes unit yesterday in order to examine 200 of the estimated 800 cases statewide likely to be overturned.

"Priests are just a small number of those and many are going back several years," said district attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons. "We're reviewing those based on the Supreme Court ruling to determine if any parts of those cases can be salvaged, and if the ruling applies to all."


Court sets stage for new struggles after tossing out sex crimes laws (Catholic News Service 27/6/03)
Supreme Court overturns law reviving old sex crime prosecutions (USA Today 26/6/03)

2 Jul 2003