4 Nov 2010

L.A. priest told Cardinal Mahony he was pedophile, but was allowed to continue ministry

The Los Angeles Times - August 14, 2009

Convicted priest talks to investigators in federal probe of L.A. archdiocese

Grand jury, investigating if church officials committed fraud, talks to Michael Stephen Baker, who said he told church leaders 20 years ago that he sexually abused children.

By Richard Winton

A former Los Angeles priest convicted of molesting two boys has been called before a federal grand jury investigating how the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony handled priest abuse cases, a source told The Times.

Former priest Michael Stephen Baker said he informed Mahony two decades ago that he sexually abused children, but he was allowed to remain in the ministry and victimized others.

In 2007, Baker was sent to state prison for 10 years for molesting two boys. Although he continues to serve time in state prison, he is now in federal custody as a grand jury witness, said a source who requested anonymity because the case is ongoing.

The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has launched a federal grand jury investigation into allegations of molestation by priests in the archdiocese, sources have told The Times. The probe is aimed at determining whether Mahony, and possibly other church leaders, committed fraud by failing to adequately deal with priests accused of sexually abusing children, sources said.

Mahony's attorney, J. Michael Hennigan, said the cardinal was not a target of the federal inquiry. Mahony has apologized repeatedly for the church's sex scandal, and said Baker's case is one of those that "troubles me the most."

Baker said he told Mahony in 1986 that he had molested young boys. "I told Mahony I had a problem," Baker said in a 2001 interview with The Times. Mahony allowed him to remain active in the archdiocese and did not alert police, law enforcement records show.

Instead, he sent Baker to a New Mexico treatment center and later assigned him to other parishes, where according to court records and interviews he victimized other boys.

In 2000, a lawyer for two brothers told the archdiocese that Baker molested them until 1999.

The archdiocese and Baker settled the matter out of court for $1.3 million, the boys' lawyer said. The cardinal acknowledged that he did not tell police of those allegations at the time.

In December 2007, Baker was convicted of molesting two boys in the 1990s, including one of the brothers. That same year, the archdiocese agreed to pay $660 million to people who accused priests of sexual abuse.

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The Press-Telegram - Long Beach, Cal. August 14, 2009

Former Long Beach priest testifying in probe of L.A. Archdiocese

By Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - A former Roman Catholic priest and ex-Long Beach resident imprisoned for sexually molesting children has been called to testify before a federal grand jury investigating how the Archdiocese of Los Angeles handled claims of abuse, a person with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press on Friday.

The person, who requested anonymity because the inquiry is ongoing, said former priest Michael Baker was transferred into federal custody at least three months ago and took the Fifth Amendment before the grand jury.

The person did not know if Baker was still in federal custody but said one other former priest was also involved in the inquiry.

Baker, 61, pleaded guilty in 2007 to molesting two boys and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Baker, once a priest at St. Lucy in Long Beach and St. Linus in Norwalk, has been accused of molesting nearly 20 children over more than two decades and is considered one of the archdiocese's worst pedophiles and thorniest problems for Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has previously acknowledged making mistakes in how he handled Baker.

Archdiocese attorney Michael Hennigan said in January that federal prosecutors told him Mahony is not a target of the investigation.Thom Mrozek, a U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman, declined to comment Friday.

Baker told Mahony in 1986 at a priests' retreat that he had molested two young boys from 1978 to 1985, according to church documents.

Mahony did not notify police but sent Baker to a residential facility that treated priests for sexual abuse problems.

In the years that followed, Baker was assigned to nine parishes but barred from having one-on-one contact with minors. He violated those restrictions three times, according to church personnel file summaries released by the archdiocese.

Mahony removed Baker from the ministry in 2000 after two men filed a lawsuit alleging Baker sexually molested them between 1984 and 1999. The archdiocese settled the lawsuit for $1.25 million.

Baker was then charged in 2002 with 34 counts of molestation involving six victims, but those charges were dismissed a year later after the U.S. Supreme Court voided a California law that allowed the prosecution of cases involving acts that occurred before 1988.

In January 2006, the former priest was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport as he returned from a vacation in Thailand.

Tod Tamberg, archdiocese spokesman, and Donald Steier, Baker's attorney, did not immediately return calls for comment Friday.

Vince Finaldi, a civil attorney, said he learned that Baker was participating in the federal inquiry when he sought to take the ex-priest's deposition in a pending sex abuse lawsuit against Baker and the archdiocese.

He said he couldn't locate Baker in the state prison system and was told by an official at the U.S. Marshal's Office that Baker was under the agency's protection as a material witness in the federal investigation.

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1 comment:

  1. Child abuse cases covered up by papal elector are settled in $10m deal

    Roger Mahony, who is at Rome conclave choosing next pope, protected Los Angeles priest who admitted molesting children

    The Guardian UK March 13, 2013

    Two child abuse cases involving a cover-up by one of the cardinals electing the next pope have been settled as part of a $10m (£6.6m) out-of-court deal in Los Angeles.

    The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles will make the payouts to victims of a now-defrocked priest who told Cardinal Roger Mahony nearly 30 years ago that he had molested children.

    The cases involving ex-priest Michael Baker span 26 years, from 1974 to 2000. Two were set for trial next month. The cases were settled this week.

    Two of the claims alleged Mahony didn't do enough to stop Baker from abusing children, said the plaintiffs' attorney John Manly.

    Mahony retired as Los Angeles archbishop in 2011 and was rebuked by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, in February after confidential church files showed the cardinal worked behind the scenes to shield molesting priests and protect the church from scandal.

    Mahony, one of the cardinals in Rome helping select the next pope, was aware of the settlement, said J Michael Hennigan, an archdiocese attorney. "We have for a long, long time said that we made serious mistakes with Michael Baker and we had always taken the position in these cases that whatever Baker did we were responsible for," he said.

    Baker could not be reached for comment. Mahony has apologised repeatedly for his handling of clergy abuse cases. The cardinal was sequestered for the papal conclave and could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

    Manly said: "The person who could have stopped this in its tracks and prevented three out of four of these children from being sexually assaulted is now sitting in Rome voting for the next vicar of Christ," said Manly. "I find that terribly troubling."

    Two of the plaintiffs, a pair of brothers, will get $4m each and the two others will get nearly $1m each, Manly said.

    Confidential files show that Baker met with Mahony in 1986 and confessed to molesting two boys over a nearly seven-year period. Mahony removed Baker from ministry and sent him for psychological treatment but the priest returned to ministry the following year with a doctor's recommendation that he be defrocked immediately if he spent any time with minors.

    Despite several documented instances of being alone with boys the priest wasn't removed from ministry until 2000 after serving in nine parishes.

    Baker was convicted of child molestation in 2007 and paroled in 2011. Baker was charged in 2002 with 34 counts of molestation involving six victims but those charges were dismissed because they fell outside the criminal statute of limitations.

    Authorities believe Baker may have abused more than 20 children in his 26-year career.

    The archdiocese settled more than 500 clergy abuse lawsuits in 2007 for a record-breaking $660m.