Priest pleads guilty of molesting boy

A former Costa Mesa priest pleaded guilty Friday to four counts of lewd acts with a minor, according to authorities.

Denis Lyons, 78, entered his plea in a Santa Ana courtroom as part of a deal brokered with the Orange County district attorney's office.

Lyons was a priest with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County when he molested a boy in the rectory and sacristy of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

Prosecutors said Lyons molested the boy between January 1992 and December 1995, when the boy was 7 to 9 years old.

In September 2008, Lyons' victim filed a report with the Costa Mesa Police Department, according to the D.A.'s office, and Lyons was arrested in July 2009 while playing cards at a community center near his Leisure World home in Seal Beach.

Lyons was previously charged with molesting a boy under the age of 14 in 2003, but the case was thrown out because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stated it was unconstitutional for sexual charges to go back infinitely.

The assaults of which Lyons was accused dated from 1978 through 1981, and the ruling meant defendants couldn't be charged with incidents prior to 1988. The decision came three months after Lyons was charged.

Lyons was also known to serve as a priest in Huntington Beach at St. Mary's by the Sea Catholic Church, and in Dana Point at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church.

Sentencing in Lyons' case is scheduled for May 25. Prosecutors expect Lyons will be sentenced to one year in jail, five years formal probation and sex offender registration.

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