A judge has ruled that Christian Clews, a Carmel Valley horse ranch owner who faces federal charges of possessing and distributing child pornography, can continue attending church services three days a week at St. Therese of Carmel Catholic Church.
The ruling by Magistrate Judge Andrew Schopler followed a hearing in Schopler’s courtroom on Thursday, June 22.
According to court documents, Clews and his family, who own Clews Horse Ranch, have attended the church for about 25 years, and Clews has continued to attend services there since his arrest in December on the child pornography charges.
But a court document revealed that church members and parents at Notre Dame Academy, a school for children from preschool to 8th grade next to the church, have been concerned about Clews’ proximity to children during his church visits.
According to a court document, an attorney for the school testified at an earlier hearing before Schopler that there has been a significant drop-off in attendance at the school – which the attorney attributed to Clews’ presence – and some parents are keeping their children at home or dropping them off later to avoid Clews when he is at the church.
Based on an order issued by Schopler on Monday, June 26, Clews can continue attending services on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, as well as Sunday mornings. But any time he is on church property, he must be accompanied by a member of church staff or a non-family member approved by the court’s pre-trial services, Schopler wrote.
Clews also is not allowed to sit next to anyone under age 18.
Another hearing is set for Aug. 8. Schopler wrote that he is “strongly considering” restricting Clews to attending church services at St. Therese only on Saturdays and Sundays once the 2017-18 school year begins on Aug. 28.
Clews is out of custody on bond, under home incarceration, and he must wear an electronic monitoring device. A trial date has not been set.
The charges against Clews, a former member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Group, stem from a two-year investigation by the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.