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FILLMORE : Judge Orders Refiled Molestation Charges

A Ventura County judge Monday ordered prosecutors to refile charges against a Fillmore man accused of sexually molesting a 9-year-old girl 16 years ago.

Municipal Judge Vincent J. O’Neill said that under state law, James Ronnie Slay, 52, can only be charged for offenses that occurred after 1978.

In November, prosecutors charged Slay with three counts of child molestation for incidents that allegedly occurred in 1978.

But prosecutors now contend that Slay assaulted the girl in 1979 and 1980, years in which she would have been about 9 years old. They said they were mistaken in the original complaint, which contended the alleged assaults occurred in 1978.

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Deputy Dist. Atty. Maeve Fox said that under a California law enacted last year, a person accused of child molestation cannot be tried for incidents that occurred before 1979. Fox said she expects to change the complaint against Slay today.

But even if they change the dates on the complaint, prosecutors still have no basis for charging Slay, said his lawyer, James Barnes of Encino.

Before Jan. 1, 1994, prosecutors could not charge suspects with child molestation for incidents that occurred six years or more prior. Under the new state law, however, lawmakers lifted the statute of limitations for molestation cases that occurred after 1978.

But Barnes argued the new law only applies to cases that occurred after last year, and not those that happened before then, such as the alleged case against his client.

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Because this area of law is so new, both attorneys said they expect the state appellate courts eventually to hand down the final decision in the Slay case.


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