Former priest may go to trial

Daily Pilot

A former Costa Mesa priest waived his right to a preliminary hearing on child molestation charges Thursday and may go to trial.

Denis Lyons, 76, the former priest of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Costa Mesa, is charged with four felony counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a minor. He faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

Lyons waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday, where prosecutors present a part of their evidence to a judge who determines if there's enough for a trial. With the charges standing, Lyons is scheduled to be arraigned June 21.

Prosecutors accuse Lyon of molesting a boy who was 7 to 9 years old between 1992 and 1995 in the rectory and sacristy of the Costa Mesa church.

He's accused of touching the boy inappropriately four separate times. Though the alleged abuse happened more than 15 years ago, Lyons was charged after the alleged victim came forward in 2008.

This wasn't the first time police targeted Lyons. He was charged in 2003 with molesting three boys between 1978 and 1981. During that case however, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law prosecuting old sexual abuse cases.

The Supreme Court ruled that all sexual abuse cases before 1988 could not be prosecuted. The court had attached a six-year statute of limitations on cases before California's sexual abuse law in 1994.

Prosecutors will still use evidence from that thrown-out 2003 case as evidence in their current one, officials said.

Lyons also served as a priest at St. Mary's By the Sea Catholic Church in Huntington Beach.

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