D.A.'s Office Disputes Church Assertion
Prosecutors Say They Didn't Tell Catholic Officials in L.A. Months Ago Not to Notify Parents about a High School Molestation Probe
By Peter Y. Hong and Paul Pringle
Los Angeles Times [Los Angeles CA]
November 18, 2006
A months-long delay in notifying parents about sexual abuse allegations at a Catholic high school raised questions Friday about whether the Los Angeles Archdiocese violated its own reform policies in molestation cases.
Parents at Daniel Murphy Catholic High School were told Friday that John Joseph Malburg had been accused of abusing three students and another minor over the last decade.
He was fired in July but continued to videotape an unsuspecting minor in the shower for two months, according to a criminal complaint.
Malburg is also charged in a political corruption scandal involving the city of Vernon.
Archdiocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg has said prosecutors asked church officials not to inform parents of the Malburg abuse investigation.
But the district attorney's office and Los Angeles Police Department said they made no such request.
"We wouldn't do that," LAPD spokesman Paul Vernon said. "It's not our position."
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has pledged to be "open and transparent" about sex abuse in churches and schools and has implemented policies to promptly deal with abuse allegations, including those against school employees.
Malburg, 37, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he sexually abused two boys, posed a third in a sexually explicit video produced for commercial purposes and videotaped several minors without their knowledge while they showered at his Hancock Park home.
In 2002, Mahony established the Clergy Misconduct Oversight Board to help the archdiocese weed out abusive priests. The panel is charged with ensuring that parishioners are promptly notified of allegations against priests or deacons.
But board Chairman Richard Byrne said it does not deal with school employees. He said he had "no opinion" on whether the archdiocese should have alerted Daniel Murphy parents.
"I would be very surprised if there wasn't a detailed way of handling that," said Byrne, a retired presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
A Los Angeles Unified School District official said the district has no specific policy for notifying parents in molestation cases, but would do so if administrators thought any students remained in danger.
"There would be some kind of alert to the parents," said Dan Isaacs, the district's chief operating officer.
Isaacs said he could not recall a case in which such a notification had been made.
Steve Sanchez, Los Angeles director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the archdiocese should have immediately sent a letter to parents, then held a meeting to advise them of the types of behavior that could indicate that their sons might have been molested.
"The archdiocese of L.A. clearly cannot police itself," said Sanchez, who has a molestation lawsuit pending against the church.
"They said five years ago — when the abuse scandal came out — that things have changed, and clearly they have not."
The archdiocese is in settlement talks involving more than 500 sexual abuse lawsuits against clergymen. Six of those accused worked at Daniel Murphy but not in recent years.
Tamberg insisted Friday that the district attorney's office told the school not to tell parents of the Malburg investigation.
"What I said [Thursday] was accurate, regardless of what the D.A.'s office may have told you," he said in an e-mail.
Murphy Principal Denis S. Munoz sent a letter to parents Friday informing them of the charges against Malburg. "At the request of the district attorney's office the matter was treated at the school on a confidential basis," the letter states.
But D.A. spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said prosecutors "never told them not to tell the parents. They were told not to tell the suspect we were investigating him but never told not to tell the parents."
Munoz declined to comment. Several parents also declined to discuss the matter.
As dean of students, Malburg was one of the top three administrators at the boys school. He had worked there since 1997.
Malburg was charged with false voter registration this week for allegedly voting in Vernon while actually living in Hancock Park.
His father, Vernon Mayor Leonis Malburg, and mother, Dominica, have also been charged in the corruption case, along with former Vernon City Manager Bruce Malkenhorst Sr.
Prosecutors said they found child pornography while searching John Malburg's computer and home as part of the corruption investigation.
In the abuse case, Malburg faces 12 charges, 10 of them felonies. He is free on $495,000 bail.
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