November 19, 2005

Ex-Priest Admits Old Sex Charges

Los Angeles Times

By Jean Guccione, Times Staff Writer

The attorney for a former Los Angeles priest admitted Friday that his client had molested 13 boys in the 1970s and 1980s, an unusual public acknowledgment of guilt in the hundreds of sexual abuse cases against the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

Michael Edwin Wempe's lawyer made the admission during a hearing in a criminal case accusing the former priest of molesting another boy in the 1990s when he was chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The lawyer did so for strategic reasons in an attempt to limit damaging testimony about old abuse cases while he continues to fight the current charges. Wempe's case is being watched closely because he is one of three priests accused of molesting children after Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, responding to abuse complaints, sent him to therapy and returned him to ministry.

The archdiocese has been sued by more than 560 people for allegedly failing to protect children from abuse, but the cases have long been mired in settlement talks and only a handful of the allegations have been tested in court.

The Wempe case has a tangled history: The former priest was originally charged with 42 counts stemming from decades-old molestations, one of which involved two brothers. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that the California law allowing prosecution of old child abuse cases violated the statute of limitations, and the charges were dismissed.

Posted by kshaw at November 19, 2005 07:08 AM