Lakeside sex offender got probation in 2009 groping case - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Lakeside sex offender got probation in 2009 groping case

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Cantorna Sentencing Hearing - Dec. 3, 2009
Audio: mp3

By David Gotfredson

LAKESIDE (CBS 8) - New information has come to light in the case of a Lakeside sex offender who was living in an assisted living home when he allegedly molested two young boys on September 12.  News 8 has obtained an audio recording of a 2009 court hearing, when Joseph Cantorna was charged with another sex crime -- reaching up a woman's skirt.

"In this case the defendant will be pleading guilty to count two... misdemeanor sexual battery. The remaining charges will be dismissed," Judge Charles Ervin said during the sentencing hearing in El Cajon court on December 3, 2009.

During that hearing, prosecutors reduced a felony sex crime to a misdemeanor count of sexual battery, the court recording confirms.  When Cantorna accepted the plea deal, the 55-year-old sex offender was represented by public defender Tom Carnessale, the same defense attorney who is representing him now.

"The document says you're pleading guilty because you reached under a female person's skirt and you touched her thigh and groin area," Judge Ervin told Cantorna in 2009.  "Is that why you're pleading guilty to this charge?" Ervin asked.

"Yes, Your Honor," Cantorna replied.

Cantorna is now charged with a string of felonies for allegedly fondling two boys while living in a Lakeside assisted living home run by a non-profit called Expanding Horizons.  Neighbors have asked why Cantorna was living in the residential home without proper supervision, given his history of sex crimes dating back 37 years.

Cantorna is also mentally retarded and currently is being evaluated to see if he is competent to stand trial on the present charges.

The audio shows that during the 2009 hearing, Cantorna's mental competency was not an issue.

"The court finds this defendant to be in full possession of his faculties. There is a knowing, intelligent waiver of his rights. A sufficient factual basis of the plea has be established," Judge Ervin said at the time.

Judge Ervin ordered Cantorna to re-register as a sex offender and released him on probation. There was no court order that Cantorna be supervised while residing at the assisted living home in Lakeside.

Because Cantorna accepted the plea deal to a misdemeanor, he was not required to list his street address on the state's Megan's Law web site.  Only his mug shot, limited criminal history and his zip code were listed.

A court hearing is set for November 10 to see if Cantorna is mentally competent to stand trial in the current case. If not, he likely will be committed to a state mental hospital.

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