Jury deliberates fate of priest

The Associated Press
Saturday April 13, 2002

SANTA ROSA — A jury broke from deliberations with no verdict Friday in the rape and molestation case against a Santa Rosa priest. 

The prosecutor told jurors not to let the Rev. Don Kimball, 58, walk free from charges he raped and molested two teen-age girls more than 20 years ago. 

“Until this defendant is held responsible for these actions, he remains a danger to society,” prosecutor Gary Medvigy told the jury of nine men and three women. 

Kimball has denied the charges, though he has admitted to having sex with adult women. 

“I’m not here to apologize for him,” said Kimball’s lawyer Chris Andrian. “My job is to present evidence that casts some doubt.” 

The alleged rape victim, Mary Agbayani, who is now 38 and is allowing The Associated Press to use her name, sobbed Friday as Medvigy presented his final statement. After leaving the courtroom, she said she was too upset to talk. 

“I’ve got a lot of emotions right now,” Agbayani said. 

Her mother, Maureen Holden, said she hoped some good would result from the trial. 

“The church is changing. Eyes are beginning to open among the hierarchy,” she said. “One day, families will trust the church again.” 

Kimball’s trial is part of a nationwide purge of decades-old abuse by priests, leading to a renewed debate about celibacy. He is one of about a dozen Catholic clergymen who worked or lived in the Santa Rosa diocese who have been accused of sexual misconduct since 1989. 

Holden still attends Kimball’s former church, where a support group was formed three years ago for abuse victims and their families. 

“The Catholic Church is a business organization,” Holden said. “The Catholic faith is something inside you.” 

Kimball is accused of raping Agbayani on the floor near the altar of the Santa Rosa church in 1977, when she was 14. She claims Kimball arranged an abortion when the priest got her pregnant. He’s also accused of molesting a 13-year-old girl in 1981 in Healdsburg. If convicted, he could face more than eight years in prison. 

The prosecutor reminded jurors Friday that Kimball admitted to former Santa Rosa Bishop John Steinbock in 1990 that he had inappropriate sexual contact with six girls under 18. 

“The best evidence in this case ... was the defendant’s own admissions,” Medvigy said. 

On Thursday, Kimball’s lawyer said the victims embellished their stories. 

“How do we know today where the truth began and where it ended?” he asked. 

Andrian focused on Agbayani’s story. 

“This is a witness who told you she hasn’t always been truthful,” he said. “She wants you to believe that she was molested so all her fabrications and all her lies are going to be excused.” 

Kimball has insisted that the women falsely accused him because they wanted more money from the church — they each have already received about $120,000. 

Medvigy disputed that in court Friday. 

“They’re trying to make a difference, not just get money for themselves,” he said. “They want the Don Kimballs eliminated from the church.” 

The diocese says it has spent $7.4 million on settlements, counseling and attorneys’ fees on sex abuse cases. That includes $1.6 million to settle a 2000 civil suit against Kimball. 

Medvigy tried to show a pattern of abuse by recounting the testimony of six other women who claimed the priest inappropriately touched them during private counseling sessions that often took place in his bedroom. Kimball faces no charges in the alleged incidents involving those six women. 

Kimball was a popular youth minister in the 1970s, a disc jockey who used rock ’n’ roll to impart a religious message. 

Medvigy said young parishioners trusted Kimball. When they came to him in need of help, the prosecutor said, Kimball betrayed them. 

Kimball also faces an April 23 arraignment for allegedly shoving a San Francisco Chronicle photographer’s camera into her face, cutting her cheek and breaking her glasses. He was jailed Tuesday following the alleged assault and released hours later after posting $30,000 bail.