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L.A. Cardinal Under Fire

Prosecutors say sex-abuse proof withheld

Oct 1, 2002 | The Los Angeles Daily News

The retiring Ventura County district attorney and his successor have accused Cardinal Roger Mahony on Thursday of stonewalling its investigation of sexual abuse by priests by refusing to hand over vital evidence.

A letter hand-delivered Thursday signed by Michael Bradbury and his successor as district attorney, Gregory Totten, who takes office today accuses Mahony of breaking his public promises to cooperate with authorities and says his refusal to turn over evidence "needlessly puts future victims at risk to predators of children."

"We believe you have evidence of criminal sexual abuse that you are refusing to provide to law enforcement unless compelled to by a court," the letter says. "This tactic creates delay and jeopardizes the ability of law enforcement to file charges within the time limitations imposed by law."

Michael Hennigan, counsel for the archdiocese, called the allegations nonsense.

"We've given them every piece of information that we are permitted by law to give," he said. "We've turned over names (in) every known incident in Ventura County, that's nine names."

Hennigan said cardinal is not allowed to hand over employee records without a judge's order.

Prosecutor Michael Frawley said that, although the Ventura County District Attorney's Office has received some information, the key evidence possible confessions and the names of witnesses has been withheld.

Hennigan also said the archdiocese has no information on any incident involving a Ventura County priest in the past 10 years.

Frawley said the office had been contacted by victims but would not say how many people had called or whether complaints had been filed.

Among the Roman Catholic priests who were investigated by a Los Angeles County grand jury this year for allegations of sexual abuse was Rev. George Miller. Miller was ordained in 1963 and served at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Santa Clarita, San Buenaventura Mission Church in Ventura and St. Philomena in Carson. Two years before he retired, he was transferred to Santa Clara Church in Oxnard.

Ventura County prosecutors have been trying to get Mahony's cooperation privately since April through phone calls and letters to his lawyers, Frawley said.

"It's frustrating when we hear (Mahony) publicly state he's doing everything possible to cooperate with law enforcement but we don't see his actions matching his words," Frawley said.

Frawley said sharing information in sexual abuse allegations is especially critical because there are rarely witnesses to such abuse.

Frawley would not comment on what steps the office would take if Mahony continued to withhold information prosecutors believe they should get. He said one option would be to get subpoenas and warrants but conceded this might be impossible in some cases.

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