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Judge Draws Praise as Way Is Cleared for New Molestation Trial

March 27, 1987|JERRY HICKS | Times Staff Writer

Praising a judge for his "courageous decision," the 4th District Court of Appeal Thursday cleared the way for a new trial for three men convicted of molesting one of the men's three daughters.

In a controversial decision, Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Owen had thrown out a jury verdict convicting the men and ordered a new trial. Owen asserted that the one daughter who was primarily responsible for the accusations lacked credibility as a witness. County prosecutors sought to block the new trial but lost their bid at the appellate level.

Siding with Owen Thursday, the appellate court praised him for "a most courageous decision in a highly publicized child molestation case." The court did note that the girls' story was "shocking."

Larry Meyerson, 44, of Garden Grove; his father, Sidney Meyerson, 69, of Fullerton, and Robert Sonnickson, 57, a family friend from Garden Grove, were convicted in August, 1984, on a total of 44 child molestation counts. The victims listed were Larry Meyerson's two stepdaughters, ages 10 and 14 at the time, and his 17-year-old adopted daughter.

But Owen said that the girls' story about what happened changed several times and that there was considerable evidence that the 17-year-old had lied.

"I'm not going to put these people in prison for upwards of 40 years" based on the 17-year-old's testimony, Owen declared.

Seven of the jurors who attended a sentencing hearing expressed outrage at the judge's decision. Prosecutors, arguing in appellate court, strongly criticized Judge Owen for "second-guessing" the jury.

But 4th District Presiding Justice John K. Trotter stated in his written opinion that Owen had only practiced "the well-defined but often ignored rule" that judges should give serious attention to motions for new trials.

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