After three trials on sexual molestation charges and three hung juries, authorities have abandoned plans to prosecute former Sierra Madre youth pastor David Rickard again.
Ten counts of oral copulation with a minor under 16 years of age, filed two years ago against Rickard, were dismissed Tuesday in Pasadena Superior Court on a request by Deputy District Atty. Robert de Carteret.
Another 110 counts against Rickard in Northern California were dismissed Sept. 18 in Shasta County Superior Court.
Charges in both jurisdictions arose from allegations that Rickard, 40, had a 2 1/2-year homosexual relationship in Redding and Sierra Madre with a 15-year-old youth entrusted to his care in 1985.
Rickard, a former youth minister at St. Jude's Episcopal Church in Burbank and the former operator of a group home for youths in Northern California, was tried twice in Pasadena but both trials resulted in hung juries: 11 to 1 in favor of conviction last year and 7 to 5 in favor of conviction last month. In February of last year, the Redding trial jury deadlocked 9 to 3 in favor of conviction.
The former pastor has maintained his innocence, arguing that the alleged events never took place. Prosecutors in both jurisdictions said they believe Rickard is guilty of the accusations but decided not to seek retrials because of the hung juries.
"We believe our witnesses, but it's unfortunate two juries were unable to come to a resolution," de Carteret said.
"Any time you're mixing religion with a criminal case, it creates havoc in jurors' minds, probably having to wrestle with those views," said Shasta County Deputy District Atty. Gregory Gaul.
Gaul also said he decided to dismiss the charges against Rickard because the youth--who is now 20, married and a father--and his parents have testified five times in court in two preliminary hearings and three trials.
"The victims have had enough," he said.
Rickard, who now lives in Sierra Madre with his parents, said that he spent more than $73,000 defending himself and that the trials ended his religious career. Rickard said he will lecture and help others avoid similar accusations by an instruction manual he is writing on how to identify youths who form emotional attachments to adults.