His daughter said she had been sexually abused by her preschool teacher and, as an attorney with long experience in criminal law, he fiercely wanted her to testify against the man.

But as the McMartin Pre-School case passed the 10-month mark in a tortuous preliminary hearing, the father decided that his rage at the school, the law and the judge was not enough reason to put his daughter through the ordeal.

"There were a lot of tears . . . and some tension between my wife and I," said the attorney, who asked not to be identified. "I realized my daughter was really only agreeing to do it to please me."

This week, in a series of decisions by parents, prosecutors and Municipal Court Judge Aviva K. Bobb, 28 of the 41 children expected to testify in the largest molestation case in U.S. history were removed from the list of witnesses.

The action came after Bobb ruled that a new state law, permitting child witnesses to testify over closed-circuit television without their alleged molesters present, did not apply in this case because the law was passed after the lengthy McMartin preliminary hearing had begun.

As a result, Deputy District Attorney Lael Rubin told Bobb that the prosecution would rest its case after the testimony of 13 children to avoid forcing the other 28 to testify in open court. Rubin also said she would appeal Bobb's decision.

In response to the judge's ruling, defense attorneys demanded that all charges be dropped. Bobb has indicated that is not likely to happen, telling prosecutors that several counts against the defendants had been supported by testimony and that, based on that testimony, there appeared to be grounds for further charges once the hearing has concluded.

Rubin's decision to rest after the testimony of 13 children initially led Bobb to dismiss 64 of the 208 charges against the seven defendants, and Associated Press reported that at least 125 more charges were dropped today.

Children have told of widespread sexual abuse at the now-closed Manhattan Beach school, including filmed molestations, sodomy and threats to kill their parents if they spoke out. Defense attorneys have blamed the charges on a wave of hysteria in the community after one parent made an accusation.

Rubin said that "the case by far is not over. We intend to proceed to trial based on the strength of the evidence that we have produced thus far."

The attorney whose daughter dropped out agreed that "a very healthy case" still exists against McMartin staff members Raymond Buckey, 27; his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 58; his sister, Peggy Ann Buckey, 29; his grandmother, Virginia McMartin, 77, and three other teachers.

Bobb's ruling on televised testimony had little to do with his family's decision, the attorney said. But he added that deciding was easier after Bobb permitted defense attorneys to keep children on the stand for days in the search for discrepancies in their testimony.