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Known Molester Found Guilty in Case of O.C. Teen

Courts: James Crummel, an early Megan's Law target in Newport Beach, faces a maximum sentence of 60 years to life. He is already in prison on other convictions.

March 18, 1999|DANIEL YI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

James Crummel, a convicted pedophile who became the focus of angry demonstrations by his Newport Beach neighbors two years ago, was found guilty Wednesday on two counts of molesting an Orange County teenager four years ago.

Crummel, 55, faces a maximum sentence of 60 years to life in prison. With a long record of prior child molestation convictions, he is now serving a prison term for molesting three other boys and faces a murder trial in Riverside County.

In the mixed verdict Wednesday, the jury also acquitted Crummel on two counts and failed to agree on three others. He originally faced 10 felony charges of forced oral copulation and sodomy with a minor but three of them were dropped in the course of the trial, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Ted Burnett.

A hearing is set for April 2 to determine whether Wednesday's convictions deserve enhanced penalties under the state's three-strikes law. Without the enhancement, Crummel would spend a maximum of 16 years in prison.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday March 19, 1999 Orange County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Molestation--A story Thursday incorrectly reported the result of James Crummel's trial last year on charges of molesting three boys in San Bernardino County. He was convicted on two counts of molesting one of the boys.

Robert Chatterton, Crummel's attorney, declined to discuss the verdict Wednesday. But during the trial, he argued that the victim, who was 16 when Crummel molested him, was not credible because he had a pending civil lawsuit related to the case.

According to authorities, Crummel drugged and molested the boy when the teenager was under the care of former psychiatrist Burnell Forgey. Forgey and Crummel were sharing a Newport Beach condominium when the crimes took place.

Forgey, 81, also has been charged and faces six counts of child molestation involving the same youth. His trial is scheduled to begin April 12.

Crummel, a Michigan native who has been convicted in four states for crimes dating to the 1960s, all involving children, had lived in the area on and off for nearly two decades in relative obscurity.

In 1997, Newport Beach police distributed fliers to residents of a Newport Crest condominium complex where Crummel and Forgey lived, alerting them of Crummel's presence.

Crummel was one of the first targets of Megan's Law in Orange County. The law allows authorities to notify residents of any "high-risk sex offenders" living in their midst.

Local residents picketed his home and demanded his eviction and later that of Forgey, who authorities said had roomed with other convicted child molesters in the past.

Just weeks into the demonstration, worried parents and others cheered when San Bernardino County authorities arrested Crummel on charges that he molested three boys in his Big Bear home in 1988. He was convicted late last year and is now serving a 10-year sentence. He was transferred to Orange County in September.

Authorities began investigating Crummel and Forgey in 1997 after they received information that Crummel may have accompanied Forgey on visits to youth homes where the psychiatrist treated troubled teenagers. The two men were charged in October.

Crummel also faces murder charges in Riverside County in the death of a Costa Mesa boy who disappeared in 1979 while on his way to school. Authorities say he molested and killed James Trotter, 13, and 11 years later claimed to have found the boy's remains by the side of a freeway in Riverside County. The trial in that case is pending.

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