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Ex-Priest Admits Guilt in Sex Case

Times Staff Writer

A former Roman Catholic priest pleaded guilty Wednesday to molesting two teenage boys he met while serving at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Paula more than a decade ago.

Carlos Rene Rodriguez, 48, will face up to 10 years and eight months in prison at his sentencing next month. He remained jailed Wednesday night in lieu of $150,000 bail.

“It was the right thing to do,” defense attorney James Farley said of his client’s decision to plead guilty. “He felt he wanted to put an end to all of this and spare the victims from testifying.”

Farley said his client regularly reads and prays in his jail cell but has had no visitors, including members of his family who reside in the Los Angeles area. Rodriquez was relieved of his clerical duties in 1993.

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The former priest narrowly avoided prosecution last year for similar sex crime allegations in Los Angeles when charges were dismissed because of a federal court ruling on a state statute of limitations.

“He’s a very decent man who made some terrible mistakes a long, long time ago,” Farley said. “He seeks to do what is right.”

Ventura County Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Wold said he was pleased with the case’s outcome. Wold would not reveal his position on how much prison time Rodriguez should serve but, like Farley, gave him credit for sparing the victims further trauma.

“It’s always a benefit in sexual assault cases when a defendant pleads guilty,” Wold said.

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In a hearing late Wednesday before Superior Court Judge Bruce A. Clark, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to masturbating and having oral sex with one boy in August and November of 1988 and having oral sex with another boy in mid-1993.

Speaking softly and wearing a worn blue jailhouse jumpsuit, Rodriguez also admitted allegations that the crimes occurred while he was a priest in Santa Paula.

Most of the molestations occurred at the homes of the boys, who were both between 13 and 17 years old at the time. Authorities have declined to release any further details concerning the victims.

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed to drop two additional charges filed against Rodriguez when he is sentenced March 12.

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In a previous and unrelated case, Rodriguez was arrested and jailed in September 2002 on suspicion of sexually assaulting an altar boy at St. Vincent de Paul Church in downtown Los Angeles, where he was then working as a priest.

Authorities alleged the incidents in Los Angeles took place from 1985 to 1987.

Rodriguez remained jailed awaiting trial until authorities were ordered to release him last summer because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a 1994 California law that allowed prosecutors to file charges in decades-old sex abuse cases. The ruling affected dozens of prisoners and at least two additional priests in the state.

Rodriguez was rearrested in December after Ventura County authorities filed their own case against him, alleging abuse that occurred after he began working in Santa Paula in 1988.

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While some of the allegations from Santa Paula took place as many as 15 years ago, the Supreme Court decision didn’t affect them because the statute of limitations would not have expired until after 1994, when the law in question was passed.

Upon his eventual release from prison, Rodriguez will be required to register as a sex offender annually for the rest of his life. Failure to do so could land him in jail for life under the state’s so-called three strikes law, Wold said.


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