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Orange County

Costa Mesa Man Faces 22 Molestation Counts

January 29, 2002|JACK LEONARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A convicted Costa Mesa sex offender, who was reportedly planning to make a bid for freedom next month from a state psychiatric hospital, has been charged with 22 counts of sexually abusing a boy five years ago, authorities said Monday.

Orange County prosecutors allege that Cary Jay Smith, 41, molested a neighbor he had befriended over a six-month period beginning in September 1996. Prosecutors said the boy, whose name was withheld, was younger than 14 when the abuse started, but they declined to elaborate.

In an unusual twist, authorities said, they were tipped off to the alleged molestation by a private investigator who had interviewed Smith in the hospital, telling Smith he planned to write a book about the patient's life. But after Smith told him grisly details about crimes he said he had committed, the investigator called detectives.

The new charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison, are likely to derail Smith's chances of getting released soon, prosecutors said.

"He is a very dangerous individual who should not be out on the streets with children or anybody else," Deputy Dist. Atty. Beth Costello said.

Smith was convicted in 1983 of a misdemeanor charge involving a child that required him to register as a sex offender.

In 1999, Smith was committed to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino after his wife found a letter describing detailed sexual fantasies he wanted to fulfill with a 7-year-old boy.

Once he had been admitted, doctors at the hospital said, Smith spoke to them about molesting as many as 200 children, but detectives were unable to corroborate any of the claims.

Patients at Patton can request release every six months. If hospital officials reject the request, the patient can appeal by demanding a jury trial to resolve the matter. In 2000, Smith asked an Orange County jury to approve his release and was turned down.

After the verdict, a private investigator befriended Smith and fooled him into discussing details of his alleged crimes, Costello said. Many of the claims, which included murders of children, proved bogus. But detectives were able to find one victim, the prosecutor said.

Costello said she did not know who had hired the private investigator, but stressed that he was not working on behalf of police or Smith's alleged victim.

Smith was planning a second attempt to win his release at a hearing next month, she said. He is expected to be arraigned Feb. 11 and will remain in Orange County Jail pending the outcome of his criminal case.

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