County's 2nd Priest Molest Case Dropped

San Gabriel Valley Tribune (San Gabriel Valley, CA)
July 3, 2003

Matthew Michael Sprouffske, 76, was arrested in November on four counts of committing lewd acts with a minor under 14. His cousin later testified that Sprouffske molested her during the 1950s while he was a priest assigned to the now-defunct Mount Carmel High School in Los Angeles.

Though still a priest of the Carmelite order, he was permanently removed from active duties in April 2002 after church officials reviewed allegations of child sex abuse, said Carmelite spokesman Sal Lema in Illinois.

Sprouffske sat quietly during the brief proceeding as Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy- Lewis dismissed the case at the prosecution's request.

"I am just very grateful that everything is resolved,' Sprouffske said outside the courtroom.

Sprouffske's case was the second such prosecution to be dropped by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office since the high court's June 26 ruling.

Prosecutors had relied on a California law that extended the statute of limitations on expired molestation cases, so long as charges were filed within a year of the alleged crime's reporting.

Because of the Supreme Court decision, the original 1962 statute of limitations on Sprouffske's case was let stand and prosecutors were forced to drop the charges.

"There's really not a whole lot to say,' said Irene Wakabayashi, assistant chief of the district attorney's sex crimes unit. "After the Supreme Court decision, we had to do this. We cannot prosecute this case.'

Prosecutors have said hundreds of similar cases brought under the law could be dropped.

Gerald Klausner, an attorney for Sprouffske, praised the Supreme Court's decision.

"You can't always turn back the clock,' he said. "Who possibly can defend themselves against 50-year-old charges?'


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