The former head of one of the nation's biggest state mental hospitals pleaded not guilty Friday to molesting his foster son and was ordered held on $3.5 million bail.

Claude Foulk, 62, is charged with 35 counts of sexually abusing one of his four foster sons who lived with him at different times since 1975.

Long Beach Superior Court Judge Arthur Jean set the bail after a prosecutor said a dozen other people have claimed they were victimized by Foulk.

However, police have said they could press charges in only one case because the statute of limitations had expired on some the incidents stretching from 1965 to 2006.

During the brief hearing Friday, Foulk was kept separate from other prisoners and conferred quietly with his attorney while standing, surrounded by deputies.

Prosecutors had requested the $3.5 million bail, but defense attorney Jon Artz asked the judge to reduce it to $500,000, saying his client wanted to be free to care for his 96-year-old mother with dementia.

Judge Jean granted the prosecution request, citing the serious nature of the allegations, and granted a state request to revoke Foulk's nursing license.

Foulk was fired from his post of executive director of Napa State Hospital after his arrest Wednesday.

Outside court, Artz said the bail was too high because Foulk has no criminal record and no prior arrests. He cautioned the public not to jump to conclusions.

"The point is ... we're hearing about some terrible allegations but let's see what the evidence shows," he said.

Long Beach police said the charges stemmed from one victim who was 10 when he was taken in by Foulk in 1992. The alleged molestation continued until 2004.

The investigation was sparked when one of Foulk's foster sons, now in his 40s, reported sexual abuse to police last September after learning Foulk was head of Napa State Hospital, Long Beach police Lt. Alex Avila said.

Detectives from the sex crimes division found evidence that five boys under the age of 14 had been molested in Long Beach, where Foulk had lived, and in Rancho Murieta in Northern California, police said.

Foulk had cared for four foster sons, eventually adopting two of them.

Foulk was paid $98,000 a year at Napa State Hospital, where he was responsible for supervising the 1,260-bed institution that houses adults mostly judged mentally incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of insanity.

He previously worked as a high-level administrator at several private psychiatric hospitals and with the state Department of Mental Health. Records show he was briefly married in the 1970s.

Avila said Foulk had no previous arrests for sex crimes.