LOS ANGELES (CA)
Daily Mail [London, United Kingdom]
June 23, 2023
By Alice Wright
- A former Catholic priest appeared in a Los Angeles court Friday for preliminary hearing on 12 counts of child molestation
- Father Christopher John Cunningham, 60, allegedly assaulted boys between the ages of 10 and 12 in the 1990s and 2000s
A former Catholic priest charged with 12 counts of child molestation, appeared in a Los Angeles court on Friday.
Father Christopher John Cunningham, 60, was arrested in 2021 for allegedly molesting boys between the ages of 10 and 12 whilst a priest in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Cunningham appeared before Judge Larry Paul Fidler at the Los Angeles Superior Court for a short hearing.
Judge Larry Paul Fidler asked Father Cunningham, who wore a grey suit, if he understand the charges against him and if he understood the courts ruling for trial within 60 days.
Father Cunningham confirmed he understood and promptly left the court with his lawyer.
Cunningham has been charged with multiple counts of lewd acts against four children while working as a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Authorities believe some of the victims were molested at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Palmdale, California in the late 1990’s, including an 11-year-old boy that prosecutors allege Cunningham sexually assaulted on two occasions.
Cunningham molested another boy at the child’s home between 1996 and 1998, according to the district attorney’s office.
Other victims in the early 2000’s were molested at Saint Lawrence Mary’s Catholic Church in Redondo Beach, California, where Cunningham had been reassigned, the prosecution’s case states.
There, Cunningham allegedly repeatedly abused a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old boy between 1998 and 2001.
‘The victims were innocent children who have spent most of their lives with the trauma caused by the abuse alleged in this case,’ Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a statement in April.
‘My office is committed to holding accountable anyone who abuses and takes advantage of our children, especially when they hold a position of trust’ Gascón added.
PHOTO: ‘The victims were innocent children who have spent most of their lives with the trauma caused by the abuse alleged in this case,’ LA County DA George Gascón said in a statement about the case
PHOTO: Complaints about Cunningham’s behavior first appeared in 1994 but he was not arrested until 2021
PHOTO: Judge Larry Paul Fidler asked Father Cunningham, who wore a grey suit, if he understand the charges against him and if he understood the courts ruling for trial within 60 days
PHOTO: Father Cunningham confirmed he understood and promptly left the court with his lawyer
A spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said the criminal investigation into Cunningham began in 2017 after the Sheriff’s Department received an allegation of sexual misconduct against the former priest.
Allegations against Cunningham first surfaced in 1994, four years after he first joined the priesthood, according to a 2017 lawsuit filed by Pasadena attorney Anthony DeMarco, who has represented several people accusing Cunningham of abuse.
‘At Saint Mary’s, Father Cunningham continued his practice of spending extraordinary amounts of time alone with teen boys. Taking them to the movies, often one-on-one, taking them to ice cream one-on-one’ the suit alleges.
‘Having them in his rectory bedroom, often one-on-one. Wrestling with them and hugging them.
‘Father Cunningham would further regularly discuss sex with teens in his religious education classes.’
In a statement at the time of Cunningham’s arrest the archdiocese denied prior knowledge of the allegations.
‘The Archdiocese was not aware of any information concerning these allegations prior to being advised of the civil lawsuit,’ the statement read.
‘Today’s announcement of Fr. Cunningham’s arrest is the first time that the Archdiocese was informed of these current criminal allegations.
‘The Archdiocese has not been advised of the names of the alleged victims in the current criminal matter. The Archdiocese continues to cooperate fully with law enforcement regarding allegations made against Fr. Cunningham.’
Cunningham was removed from the ministry in 2005 due to ‘boundary violations, which are unrelated to the current criminal matter’, the LA Times reported.
One year prior to his removal, Cunningham allegedly molested another young boy at St. Louise de Marillac Catholic Church in Covina, according to a separate settled lawsuit, the terms of which have not been disclosed.