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Witness' temper flares under cross-examination

Jan 31, 2006 | AP

provoked fewer declared Tuesday when he was cross-examined by a lawyer for Michael Wempe.

The 26-year-old man, identified only as Jayson B., alleges the retired priest molested him in the 1990s during encounters at Wempe's office at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and in parking garages inside the priest's cars.

His temper flared during cross-examination when defense lawyer Leonard Levine challenged his recollection of the cars.

"I know what happened to me," Jayson B. insisted.

During earlier questioning by Deputy District Attorney Todd Hicks, the witness slumped in the witness chair, covered his eyes with his hand and sobbed as he told jurors graphic details of his alleged molestation.

When Levine took over, Jayson B. sat up, faced the lawyer dry-eyed and resisted answering some questions by claiming a faulty memory.

Jayson B. described activities in a Ford Explorer SUV and a purple Ford Thunderbird, insisted the interiors were the same but said he could not remember what happened in each car.

"It's almost 15 years ago and you're asking me the color of a car?" Jayson snapped at the lawyer.

"These cars played a role in your molestation over five years, didn't they?" asked Levine.

"Yes, and I was trying to forget," said the witness.

Holding up a photo of a purple Thunderbird, Levine said, "What if I told you the defendant didn't own this Thunderbird until 1995, would that change your testimony?"

"No," Jayson B. said.

Wempe, 66, has admitted molesting 13 boys in the 1970s and '80s, including Jayson B.'s two brothers, but he cannot be tried in those cases because the statute of limitations has expired.

The priest cried profusely during a week of testimony from seven victims he has acknowledged abusing but he was impassive while Jayson B. spoke.

The witness came forward three months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law allowing the statute of limitations to be extended in sex crimes cases involving children.

Wempe's lawyers contend that Jayson B. fabricated the charges to seek vengeance for his brothers.

Jayson B. said he brought the allegations because "he needs to be punished" but vehemently denied faking them.

Later in the day, the witness calmed down but continued to plead a faulty memory for details, saying: "I don't have a play-by-play in my head."

"That was a very long time ago," he said at another point. "I don't know how you expect me to remember."

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