Bishop Accountability

Mahony Resources – October 2002

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Former Catholic priest charged with felony child abuse

North County Times (Escondido CA)
October 10, 2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) ---- Former Catholic priest George Neville Rucker, who is charged with molesting seven girls in the Los Angeles area over nearly 30 years, was wheeled into a court room Wednesday with two of his alleged victims present, but his arraignment was postponed.

Rucker, 82, who was arrested aboard a cruise ship off Alaska last month by state troopers at the request of Los Angeles police, entered the criminal courts building in a wheelchair.

Rucker did not enter a plea Wednesday. Instead, his attorney, Don Steier, used the hearing to try and convince Judge Jeffrey Harkavy to reduce the $1 million bail that has kept Rucker behind bars.

Judge Harkavy, who ordered Rucker to hand his passport over to detectives as evidence, agreed to re-examine the bail issue Nov. 6 when the arraignment continues. The judge said in the meantime that he wants a report on Rucker's financial situation before deciding whether to reduce his bail.

Dressed in a blue prison-issued jumpsuit, the elderly ex-priest did not make eye contact as he passed two women sitting in the benches who claim Rucker molested them as young girls while he was a parish priest at St. Anthony's Catholic church in El Segundo.

"It doesn't matter how many years ago that you do harm to a child. It can come back to you," said an emotional Laurie Hobbs, 50, following the hearing.

"No amount of money in the world is better than punishment," chimed Tammy Helm, 44, who drove six hours from her home in a rural community north of San Francisco to watch Rucker be charged.

Prosecutors allege Rucker began molesting girls in 1947, a year after he was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, and continued until 1976. The charges cover time periods when Rucker was assigned to various churches in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, including St. Alphonsus in East Los Angeles, St. Agatha in Los Angeles and St. Anthony's.

A spokesman for the archdiocese did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Although the alleged molests occurred many years ago, the cases were not reported to law enforcement until this year, making them eligible for an extension of the statue of limitations under California law, prosecutors said.

Art Goldberg, a lawyer who represents several women who claim Rucker molested them as children, said the former priest would single out his victims by telling them they were special. He said Rucker should receive the maximum 26-year sentence, despite his age.

"Certain crimes are so traumatic to the fiber of a human being that a person should suffer a serious penalty," Goldberg said.

The elderly ex-priest has no criminal record, resides in a nursing home and has undergone heart surgery and hip replacement, Steier said while arguing for the lower bail.

"If the purpose is to protect society, that isn't an issue," said Steier. "If the issue is a flight risk, he isn't going anywhere."

Deputy District Attorney Suzanne Freeman offered a different perspective. She noted that Rucker's bail was a "fair and proper amount," in light of the charges against him. She said a medical exam had detected "no grave medical concerns," adding that Rucker did not require a wheelchair while on his 64-day around the world cruise.

Former Priest Pleads Not Guilty to Molestation
Ex-cleric faces 29 counts of abuse. In another case, bail is reduced for a retired clergyman accused of molesting seven girls

By Richard Winton
LA Times
October 18, 2002,1,4957558.story

A former priest pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of child molestation Thursday as bail for a retired priest charged with molesting seven girls was halved to $500,000.

Michael Stephen Baker, 54, entered the not-guilty pleas to 29 counts in Downey Superior Court. Baker has previously admitted to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony that he molested boys.

He was arrested Sept. 25 and freed on $800,000 bail Oct. 7.

Baker allegedly abused a boy between 1976 and 1985. Baker told Mahony in 1986 that he molested young boys, and was reassigned. Mahony later approved a secret $1.3-million payment to two men who said they had been abused by Baker from 1984 to 1999. Baker left the church in 2000.

Also Thursday during a bail hearing for retired priest G. Neville Rucker, Deputy Dist. Atty. Christina Fleming disclosed that nine additional allegations of abuse had been reported to police since Rucker had been plucked off a cruise ship in the Pacific.

Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Jeffrey M. Harkavy ordered Rucker's bail reduced from $1 million to $500,000 at the request of defense attorney Donald Steier.

Fleming disclosed the new allegations after a Probation Department report recommended that Rucker be released without bail, prosecutors said.

Steier has maintained that Rucker, who lives in a retirement home and who entered court in a wheelchair, is not a danger to the community.

Prosecutors have said Rucker knew he was the subject of an investigation and was fleeing when he was snatched by authorities Sept. 27 from a cruise ship that had been diverted to Alaska's Aleutian Islands

Steier said Rucker was on a two-month vacation cruise.

Rucker is charged with 23 counts of child molestation between 1946 and 1976. He is alleged to have abused seven girls while he worked at several churches in Los Angeles County, including St. Alphonsus in East Los Angeles, St. Anthony in El Segundo and St. Agatha in Los Angeles. All of the girls were younger than 14, prosecutors said.

Rucker was one of seven priests removed by Mahony from the ministry this year when the cardinal implemented a "zero tolerance" policy for those who had abused minors.

Mahony: LA Archdiocese Will Not Alter Sexual Abuse Policies
Mahony Statement Issued In Response To Vatican Announcement

October 18, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- Cardinal Roger Mahony said Friday the policies of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles against priests implicated in sexual abuse cases will not be altered as a result of the Vatican's refusal to recognize a new crackdown by American bishops.

Mahony issued his statement in response to a Vatican announcement regarding the zero-tolerance policy that American bishops adopted in Dallas in June. The policy was largely in response to allegations of abuse by priests and charges that, in many cases, the abusers had been protected by their superiors.

The U.S. policy, developed in part in response to pressure from past victims, requires dioceses to remove priests from church work and, in some cases, from the priesthood itself, if they are named in "credible" allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Vatican's position on the policy was set out by Cardinal Giovanni Battiste Re, head of the Congregation of Bishops, in a letter to Bishop Wilton Gregory, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Re expressed the Vatican's support for the effort to eliminate clergy abuse of minors but said some provisions of the American bishops' policy are "difficult to reconcile" with church law.

"For these reasons it has been judged appropriate that before the 'recognitio' (Vatican approval) can be granted, a further reflection on and revision of the 'Norms' and the 'Charter' are necessary," he wrote, using shorthand descriptions for the two documents in which the bishops' policy is enshrined.

Re went on to propose the creation of a joint U.S./Vatican commission to revise the policy.

"The appointment of the Mixed Commission announced today does not change our Archdiocesan sexual abuse policies," Mahony said in a written statement. "No priest who has been found to have sexually abused a minor will be returned to minister in the church."

Gregory, in his written response to Re, said he was "happy" to accept the proposal for a mixed commission. He later said at a news conference in Rome that he expected the commission to wrap up its work by next month.

In the meantime, Gregory said, the Vatican response does not compel bishops already implementing the policy to stop.

Mahony said he was confident that the commission "will produce even deeper accord between our Local Church and the Universal Church as we work together to protect minors and assist victims."


Bishop Accountability © 2003