Advertisement

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.

August 15, 2009|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.

--

richard.winton@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|