Crime

Convicted Cambria child molester is back in jail after judge raises his bail

Ronald John Cowan of Cambria was released from state prison last week after an appellate court reversed a 2014 conviction for child molestation. He is back in custody as prosecutors prepare to retry him later this month.
Ronald John Cowan of Cambria was released from state prison last week after an appellate court reversed a 2014 conviction for child molestation. He is back in custody as prosecutors prepare to retry him later this month.

A Cambria man freed after his child molestation sentence was overturned by a state appellate court in February is back in jail after a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge raised his bail to $700,000.

Ronald John Cowan, 60, faces five felony counts of child molestation with two enhancements for molesting a young boy. He originally was convicted on those charges and sentenced to 65 years in prison in 2014. He was three years into that sentence when he received a court-ordered discharge May 31, while he was being held at the California Men’s Colony.

Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Speer-Mathews, who took over the case from Deputy District Attorney Kelly Manderino after the latter’s actions resulted in the conviction being reversed, told Judge Denise de BelleFeuille that she was seeking $100,000 for each felony count, plus an additional $100,000 per felony enhancement, at a hearing Wednesday. Speer-Mathews said that amount would be in line with Marcy’s Law and also county precedent.

Cowan’s attorney, Jeffry Radding, argued that Cowan was being punished by the District Attorney’s Office “because of a wrongful conviction.”

Radding said the judge had discretion to keep the bail at the lower amount, $100,000. He said Cowan was living with a “very active” elderly couple that were with him at all times.

Speer-Mathews argued that “this is not retribution for a conviction overturned. There’s a change in circumstance.”

She said Cowan now knew just what kind of sentence he faces if re-convicted, making him a heightened flight risk.

After hearing arguments from both sides, de BelleFeuille said $700,000 bail was an appropriate amount. She ordered Cowan to be taken into custody immediately.

A second trial is scheduled to begin jury selection June 19, according to court records.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7929, @andrewsheeler

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