Mentally disordered sex offender has long criminal history - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Mentally disordered sex offender has long criminal history

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By David Gotfredson

EL CAJON, Calif. (CBS 8) - A Lakeside man who was once committed to a state hospital as a mentally disordered sex offender is facing new charges of committing lewd acts on two neighborhood boys, ages 7 and 9.

Criminal and mental health records show 55-year-old Joseph Cantorna has a history of sex offenses going back to 1973, involving at least six children and one female adult; not including the two alleged victims in the most recent incident September 12.

Cantorna is now facing 25 years to life because of stricter sentencing guidelines under Chelsea's Law, signed one week ago by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. A special allegation of multiple victims makes him eligible for the extended prison term under the new law, named after murdered Poway teenager Chelsea King.

Prosecutors charged Cantorna with four felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, alleging he touched the boys while they were riding their bicycles. He is accused of rubbing the back of the younger boy in a sexual manner, and then turning to the older boy and stroking his back, buttocks and penis through the outside of the boy's clothing.

Cantorna also pulled down his pants and exposed himself to both boys resulting in two misdemeanor counts, Deputy District Attorney Claudia Grasso told News 8 outside the El Cajon courtroom.  The suspect pleaded not guilty to all counts Wednesday afternoon.

Lakeside residents of the Cherry Road neighborhood where the alleged incident took place said Cantorna has lived for several years in a nearby group home at 8820 Golden Ridge Road, but they were never informed of his background.

"(Cantorna) never should have been allowed in that neighborhood, in that home, walking the area freely and doing what he did on Sunday,'' said Kent Kopperud, who lives on Cherry Road and attended the court hearing.

Cantorna is a former North County resident, raised on and off with his brother and sister in Vista. A 1979 criminal evaluation described him as, "developmentally disabled with a borderline IQ of 69," with "severe behavioral problems." The evaluation said Cantorna was a client of the San Diego Regional Center, a non-profit agency that contracts with the State of California to provide services for developmentally disabled individuals.

A 1981 San Diego Regional Center petition included in a mental health case file placed Cantorna in the "mild range of mental retardation." Other records confirm Cantorna resided at Expanded Horizons group home on Gold Ridge Road in 2002.

The operator of the group home did not respond to a News 8 phone message. The San Diego Regional Center could not be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

Records establish the following timeline of Cantorna's mental health and criminal history:

1966 to 1973 – Resided at Mountain View School, a home for the developmentally disabled in Ramona.

1973 – Under jurisdiction of the San Diego Regional Center, a non-profit agency under contract with the State of California.

June 1973 – Removed from a placement home because of homosexual behavior with children at the facility.

Aug 3, 1973 – Picked up by police for child molesting and soliciting immoral acts from a 5-year-old girl. Released on his own recognizance.

Aug 21, 1973 – Rearrested for similar offense, according to mental health evaluation.

1973 to 1977 – Committed to Patton State Hospital.

Aug 18, 1978 – Picked up by Los Angeles police for molesting a 6-year-old boy, who was riding his bicycle. Accused of unzipping the boy's pants and stroking the boy's crotch area. Originally charged with a felony count of Penal Code 288(a). Cantorna pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of committing a lewd act, Penal Code 647(a), and was sentenced to probation, records show.

July 13, 1979 – Arrested in the North County on two counts of child molestation involving two, 8-year-old boys. Charged with two felony counts of Penal Code 288(a). Cantorna pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor lewd act count of Penal Code 647(a). He was subsequently committed to Patton State Hospital as a mentally disordered sex offender.

1979 to 1981 – Patton State Hospital

1981 – Admitted to Camarillo State Hospital. Evaluation states "Mr. Cantorna is mentally retarded" and "he is a danger to others due to this history of child molesting."

Dec 11, 1992 – Charged with felonies of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon in North County court in Vista. Pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon. Case file currently on order from storage. (UPDATE:  Cantorna was found mentally incompetent to stand trial on May 14, 1993 and sent to Patton State Hospital.  On Oct. 3, 1994, he was found to be competent.  He was returned to Vista court where he pleaded guilty to a felony of assault with a deadly weapon on Nov. 7. 1994.  A judge sentenced him to time served, and he was released on three years formal probation to the custody of Expanding Horizons).

2001 to 2002 – Under the jurisdiction of the County of San Diego, Public Conservator and living at Expanded Horizons group home in Lakeside; also under the jurisdiction of the San Diego Regional Center non-profit agency.

Oct 7, 2009 – Charged with felony count of Penal Code 243.4, sexual battery of a restrained person with the help of an accomplice, and a misdemeanor count of sexual battery. As part of a plea bargain, Cantorna pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of sexual battery, the defendant, "reached under a female's skirt and touched her thigh/groin area," according to Cantorna's plea form. He was sentenced to three years probation and a 90-day suspended sentence pending successful completion of probation.

Sept. 12, 2010 – Current offense. Four felony counts of lewd acts on multiple victims. Two misdemeanor counts of annoying or molesting a child. Faces 25 years to life.

Judge Herbert Exarhos set bail at $1 million and scheduled a readiness conference in El Cajon court for September 23.

City News Service contributed to this report.  The content has been updated since its original posting.

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