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Montecito Church Employee Accused of Molestation Freed from Custody After Supporters Post Bond

An All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church employee accused of molestation has been released from immigration custody after supporters raised and posted a $20,000 bond.

Carlos Ruano

Carlos Ruano, 67, was released over the weekend from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Adelanto Detention Facility in Los Angeles, where the Santa Barbara man had been waiting for a final deportation decision since he was taken into custody at his sentencing on Nov. 15.

Ruano, who has been the Montecito church’s sexton since 2005, agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of false imprisonment in October to stave off a second trial in a felony molestation case.

Prosecutors offered the deal after a jury failed to come back with a unanimous verdict, deadlocking 9-3 after four days in favor of convicting Ruano of lewd conduct against a minor — his then 7-year-old step-granddaughter — during an incident that allegedly took place last July in his Santa Barbara home. A mistrial was declared Sept. 26.

In November, Ruano was sentenced to 360 days in jail and three years of formal felony probation. He was given credit for time served, which was already more than a year.

Ruano — described by church members as a Guatemalan political refugee who arrived in the country in the 1980s — was immediately taken into custody by ICE, and was detained in the Adelanto Detention Facility to await a hearing before an immigration judge.

Spokeswoman Virginia Kice previously said ICE would seek to reinstate Ruano’s prior deportation order and remove him from the country, especially since he had been deported before.

About 30 Ruano supporters and church members were present at a bond hearing in Los Angeles last week, during which a $20,000 refundable bond was set.

Supporters were able to raise the bond within 24 hours, said Alan Hopkinson, a forensic accountant and nonpracticing lawyer who has been a member of All Saints for more than 20 years and has been coordinating support for Ruano and his defense.

Ruano will appear before an immigration judge at least two more times before a deportation decision is made, said Jim Daly, Ruano’s Santa Barbara attorney.

That process could take a couple years, he said, noting that those in custody typically go through the process a bit faster.

“It’s so backed up in the immigration court system,” Daly said.

Kathryn Mattingly, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, said processing times for removal cases are determined on a case-by-case basis.

She said future court hearing dates have yet to be rescheduled on a non-detained docket at the Los Angeles Immigration Court.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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