January 27, 2006

Witness Breaks Down on Stand

Los Angeles Times

By Jean Guccione, Times Staff Writer

Within minutes of taking the witness stand, one of Father Michael Wempe's sexual abuse victims burst into tears Thursday, gazing at a picture of his son, then 4, seated on the priest's lap at a Christmas gathering.

"I can't believe I did that," the witness, identified only as Mark B., said Thursday, wiping his eyes. "I put my son on the lap of a pedophile."

Wempe, on trial for allegedly molesting Mark B.'s youngest brother, met the family in the 1970s when they attended St. Jude Catholic Church in Westlake Village, Mark B. testified.

"He was a person of great importance to my family. We didn't know a lot of people when we moved to Westlake Village," he said. "He became a surrogate father, not just a spiritual father."

Mark B. said he recalled Wempe fondly until spring 2001, when the priest was invited to his younger brother Lee's wedding. Suddenly, he said, memories fell into place of the motorcycle rides when Wempe fondled him, and the camping trip when the priest snuggled up to him in bed.

Posted by kshaw at January 27, 2006 08:25 AM