LOS ANGELES – California judges ordered two molestation defendants freed Monday as authorities sought to determine how many cases may be voided by the U.S. Supreme Court's (search) rejection of a law allowing prosecution of decades-old sex abuse (search) allegations.
The Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the nation's only law designed to ensnare molesters who committed their crimes decades ago.
The ruling was denounced by people who have accused priests of crimes, while prosecutors emphasized the fallout from the high court's decision will extend far beyond the high-profile clergy sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic church (search).
In San Francisco, a judge responding to the Supreme Court ruling ordered former monsignor Patrick O'Shea (search), 70, released from jail. He had been held since September on 24 counts of molesting three boys in the 1960s and 1970s. O'Shea had pleaded innocent to the charges.
"This is the argument I've been making since 1995, that it is unconstitutional to apply this law retroactively," said O'Shea's lawyer, Stephen Scherr. He said he would ask Tuesday for the case to be dismissed.
In Los Angeles, a judge ordered former priest Carlos Rene Rodriguez released from jail where he has been held for about nine months on charges of molesting a 12-year-old boy during a two-year period ending in 1987.
Another former priest, John Anthony Salazar, appeared before a Los Angeles court commissioner who said a motion to dismiss will likely be granted. Salazar remained free on his own recognizance.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office was organizing a Tuesday meeting of its sex crimes unit and key deputies to examine 200 of the estimated 800 cases statewide likely to be overturned.
The state attorney general's office said it will drop sex assault charges filed against retired priest Franklyn Becker and former priest Harold Charles Depp, who were accused of molesting boys in San Diego County during the 1970s.