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2 More Men Accuse Retired Priest

Additional molestation charges are filed against Father Carl Sutphin, 70. His lawyer plans to contest a state law on sex-abuse prosecution

Jan 1, 2002 | Los Angeles Times Ventura County prosecutors filed additional criminal charges Tuesday against a retired Catholic priest after two more men came forward with allegations that they were molested as boys three decades ago.

Father Carl Sutphin, 70, now faces 14 counts of child molestation involving six boys during the late 1960s and 1970s.

During a court appearance Tuesday, Sutphin's attorney, James Farley, told a judge he will seek a complete dismissal of charges by challenging a controversial state law that allows prosecutors to file sex-abuse counts years after an alleged crime has occurred.

Outside the courtroom, Farley, a Catholic deacon, described his client as a compassionate man who has been unjustly accused amid national hysteria over alleged sex abuse by priests.

"I always have to question the motives of people who are coming forward after all these years," Farley said. "Most of these counts are over 30 years old."

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Doug Ridley said the six men who have implicated Sutphin kept quiet out of fear, and only broke their silence after learning about other church sex-abuse cases nationwide.

"Now is when these victims were able to come forward and talk about it for the first time," Ridley said. "They see other people are doing that, and it is giving them the courage to talk about it after so many years."

Sutphin is one of two former Ventura County priests whom prosecutors have charged in recent weeks with child molestation.

Father Fidencio Silva, 53, is suspected of abusing children while overseeing an altar-boy program at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Oxnard three decades ago. A warrant has been issued for his arrest, and he remains at large.

Sutphin was arrested April 4 at his 96-year-old mother's home in Ventura on suspicion of molesting four boys.

Released on $200,000 bail, Sutphin appeared in Ventura County Superior Court on Tuesday to answer those charges, but the matter was postponed after prosecutors presented him with a second criminal complaint involving two more victims.

Judge James Cloninger consolidated the cases and set arraignment for May 5.

Prosecutors sought a bail increase, but the request was denied.

Sutphin is now accused of molesting six boys, ages 7 to 12, between 1968 and 1978 while serving as an associate pastor at St. Mary Magdalen Church in Camarillo and as a chaplain at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard.

Ridley said the initial victims were identified during a nearly year-long investigation by his office, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department and the Ventura Police Department. He said the other two victims contacted his office several days ago after reading newspaper reports of Sutphin's first court appearance.

Farley said Tuesday that he will file court papers to dismiss the case based on a flawed California law that allows certain serious sex-abuse charges to be filed after the statute of limitations has expired. The California Supreme Court has upheld the law, but defense attorneys believe federal courts might find it unconstitutional.

Farley and his associate, Kay Duffy, are representing Sutphin for free. The lawyer said Tuesday that Sutphin is penniless, in poor health and caring for his elderly mother.

He declined to identify the "friend" who secured Sutphin's release from county jail, but said the clergy were not involved in posting bail.

Sutphin most recently worked at St. Vibiana's Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles and at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels while it was under construction.

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