Friday, June 18, 2010

Salinas priest accused of sexually assaulting teen to appear in court today

Salinas priest accused of sexually assaulting teen to appear in court today
BY SUNITA VIJAYAN • • June 17, 2010

Salinas police Sgt. Don Cline is now testifying in a hearing for a priest accused of sexually assaulting a teenager.

Defense lawyers for the Rev. Antonio Cortes of St. Mary of the Nativity Church were scheduled to continue arguing against the admission of certain evidence they have said was illegally seized by police during a search conducted in April 2009.

The hearing to suppress evidence including a computer hard drive Salinas police say contains child pornography began in January. The hearing has been continued due to scheduling conflict by officers testifying in the case.

Cortes, 42, was ordered to stand trial on felony charges of sodomy with a minor and misdemeanor counts of possession of child pornography. He was placed on paid administrative leave after his arrest on April 16, 2009. His arrest came two days after a boy made the molestation claims to Salinas police.
According to court documents submitted by the defense, “evidence seized at 1702 Second Ave. [church office] and subsequently moved to and photographed at 1747 Second Ave. [rectory]. No warrant supported any seizures at 1702 Second Avenue. Therefore this evidence must be suppressed.”

Prosecutors, however, say the search warrant in the Cortes case “specifically authorized the search of the defendant” along with “search and seizure of computers and cell phones associated with the defendant.” Therefore, the prosecution said, the items seized should be included as evidence.

The prosecution also said the search warrant covers not only the rectory but Cortes’ person.

Court documents show that the videos in the seized hard drives had sexually explicit titles and that the computer also had images of children in sex acts.

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