Sex Offender Deemed Mentally Unfit To Stand Trial

Joseph Cantorna Is Mentally Unfit To Stand Trial

A registered sex offender accused of molesting two Lakeside boys is mentally incompetent to stand trial, a judge ruled Friday.

Joseph William Cantorna, 56, will be housed at either Patton State Hospital or a facility in Porterville, said Deputy District Attorney Claudia Grasso. The location will be determined at a hearing March 4 before Judge Frederick Maguire.

Whatever locked mental health facility he goes to, Cantorna could stay there for the rest of his life, unless doctors determine he has regained his competency, in which case he would be sent back to San Diego County for trial, the prosecutor said.

Cantorna allegedly molested the boys, ages 7 and 9, after he wandered away from his group home in Lakeside's Cherry Road neighborhood back in September.

He is charged with four felony counts of committing a lewd act with a minor, and is the first in San Diego to be prosecuted under the provisions of the recently enacted Chelsea's Law.

Grasso said the alleged victims were riding their bicycles when one went to get a drink. Cantorna allegedly approached the younger boy and began to touch his bicycle and then rubbed his back.

The 9-year-old saw what was happening and returned to his friend, at which time the defendant turned his attention to the older boy and began to rub his back, buttocks and penis, Grasso alleged.

When the man asked if they would like to see his private parts, they rode away, according to the prosecutor.

Although Cantorna will not head to prison, Grasso is satisfied with the judge's ruling.

"He will be put in a facility, complete locked facility, and that's ultimately what the family members want -- for him not to get out," Grasso said after the hearing Friday. "He should not be amongst society."

Cantorna, who is also charged with two misdemeanor counts of annoying or molesting children, has a lengthy criminal record, she said.

Because the prosecution alleges there were multiple victims, the combined charges carry a maximum punishment of 25 years to life in prison each. The same charges and allegations prior to Chelsea's Law would have brought a maximum of 15 years to life in prison.

The law is named for Poway High School senior Chelsea King, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by sex offender John Albert Gardner III about 11 months ago near Rancho Bernardo Community Park.

The measure, which toughens penalties for sex crimes and heightens official monitoring of sex offenders, was signed last November by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and took effect immediately.

Maguire's ruling did not surprise Cantorna's attorney.

"I suspect everyone is conscious of the fact that he's got some serious mental and psychiatric issues," said public defender, Tom Carnessale. "I don't think this is going to be a continuous cycle. It's the end of the road for Joseph."

Those living in the Lakeside neighborhood where Cantorna was living until the September incident told 10News there are still concerns about his halfway house.

Neighbor Tom Walko said, "The residents are frequently out roaming, walking the neighborhood, not as controlled as they should be."

His wife, Laura, added, "We're not going to sit still and watch this happen. We are trying to get the home closed. We're trying to get the license revoked."

A similar neighborhood revolt was launched three years ago against two halfway houses in Spring Valley. They were closed after residents enlisted the aid of San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, and the group homes were closed after being found in violation of county code.

The Lakeside house is state-licensed, though, and falls under different guidelines.

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