January 23, 2006

Prosecutor: Child molest victims were drawn to charismatic LA priest

San Francisco Chronicle

By LINDA DEUTSCH, AP Special Correspondent

Monday, January 23, 2006

(01-23) 16:26 PST Los Angeles (AP) --

Michael Wempe was the "hip" priest who wore his hair long, rode a motorcycle and gave such dynamic sermons that young people were drawn to him, and he used that magnetism to molest more than a dozen boys, a jury was told Monday during opening statements in the former Catholic priest's sex abuse trial.

"The defendant had a dark side," said Deputy District Attorney Todd Hicks. "He wanted to touch boys and enjoy it. ... His lifestyle was preach on Sunday, molest Monday through Friday and pray on Saturday."

Wempe's attorney, Leonard Levine, did not deny in his opening statement that the ex-priest was a child molester who abused numerous boys over a 15-year period beginning in 1972. But he added that Wempe is not guilty of the crime with which he is charged, molesting another boy in the 1990s.

He said those allegations were fabricated by a man seeking to punish the priest for past transgressions against the man's brothers.

Posted by kshaw at January 23, 2006 08:26 PM