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Retired Priest Is Accused of Sexual Abuse

He Is The Sixth Cleric In Recent Months To Be Arrested On Suspicion Of Child Molestation

Dec 11, 2002 | Los Angeles Times

A retired Roman Catholic priest was arrested Tuesday for allegedly sexually abusing two boys at a Pacoima church, bringing to six the number of clerics booked for child molestation in Los Angeles County in recent months.

Father George Michael Miller, 64, was taken into custody at his home in Oxnard. Miller, who retired from the priesthood in 1997, was held in lieu of $500,000 bail.

The investigation began in May, when a man reported he had been sexually assaulted by Miller while serving as an altar boy at Guardian Angel Church.

In June, a second man told Los Angeles Police Department detectives that Miller molested him as a child in the 1970s and '80s when he attended the same church.

"We believe there are other victims of George Miller out there and we'd encourage them to contact us immediately," said LAPD Lt. Daniel Mulrenin.

"This is the fifth arrest of a priest by the department this year, and it won't be the last. There are many other cases under investigation."

A sixth priest was arrested in September by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Miller was pastor of Guardian Angel from 1973 to 1984, when he was transferred to Santa Clara Church in Oxnard. Investigators allege that he abused victims in the rectory, at a beach house and at their homes.

Officials for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Miller was forced to retire in 1997 after an allegation that he sexually abused a minor.

Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said the archdiocese is committed to the healing of victims of sexual abuse by the clergy.

"No priest who has been found to have abused a minor will ever be reassigned to the ministry, period," he said. "We will continue to cooperate with authorities in the investigation of allegations of abuse."

Miller's attorney, Donald Steier, said his client is innocent and lacks the resources to make bail.

Prosecutors said they expect to file charges Wednesday against Miller. He may face as many as 20 counts involving the alleged victims.

Prosecutors have already charged five current or former Los Angeles priests with child molestation.

Former priest Carlos Rodriguez, 37, of Commerce was charged with molesting an altar boy from 1985 to 1987 when he served at St. Vincent de Paul Church.

In September, the Coast Guard plucked retired priest G. Neville Rucker, 82, of Los Angeles from a cruise ship bound for Russia and brought him to Los Angeles, where he is awaiting trial on charges that he molested 10 girls over a 30-year period dating to 1946.

Two more priests were arrested last month in Texas and Illinois at the request of the LAPD.

Matthew Michael Sprouffske, 75, was arrested in Darien, Ill., and has been charged with four felonies. He denied that he molested a female relative during the 1950s while he served as a Los Angeles priest, and is fighting extradition.

John Anthony Salazar was charged last month with sexually assaulting a male student at St. Bernard High School and an altar boy at St. Teresita Church in Los Angeles from 1980 to 1983. He was arrested last week in Amarillo, Texas, and is not fighting extradition.

Former priest Michael Stephen Baker, 54, was arrested by sheriff's deputies Sept. 25 and has pleaded not guilty to 29 counts of child molestation.

Also on Wednesday, a Los Angeles man sued the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, alleging that he was molested from 1969 to 1978 by a now deceased priest, Clinton Hagenbach. The alleged victim, Steven Sanchez, said at a news conference that he had been scarred for life.

The suit, seeking unspecified damages, alleges the church was negligent in its supervision of the priest. Jeffrey Anderson, one of Sanchez's attorneys, alleged that church officials must have known of the molestation.

Both sides said the archdiocese paid a brother of Sanchez $1.5 million in June after he made similar allegations of molestation against the same priest.

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