Former Priest

By Alex Dobuzinskis
City News Service
July 3, 2003

Charges were dismissed today against a 76-year-old former priest accused of molesting his cousin in the 1950s when she was a girl.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis dismissed the case against Matthew Michael Sprouffske because of last week's Supreme Court ruling, said Jane Robison of the District Attorney's Office.

The high court ruled that a 1994 state law retroactively extending the statute of limitations for sex crimes was unconstitutional.

"In this case, the statute of limitations expired on Dec. 31, 1962," for the counts Sprouffske was charged with, according to Deputy District Attorney Irene Wakabayashi's motion to dismiss. The judge granted the motion.

Sprouffske was one of 10 ex-priests charged by the District Attorney's Office with sex crimes. He is the second former priest to have his case dismissed because of the high court ruling.

Sprouffske, a priest who was assigned to Mount Carmel High School, was charged with four counts of lewd acts with a child and faced one to 10 years in prison for each count, according to prosecutors.

In her testimony on June 19, Sprouffske's cousin, identified as Patricia K., described four occasions where she had a clear memory of being molested between the ages of 4 and 5 by Sprouffske -- her cousin on her father's side.

She said the first time she told an adult about the alleged abuse was in 1986, when she began 10 months of therapy.

Patricia K. said she reported the alleged abuse to the Los Angeles Police Department in May last year. On July 10, 2002, she and an LAPD officer made a taped phone conversation with Sprouffske that was played in court during her testimony.

After being asked why he abused her, Sprouffske said he was reluctant to say anything because his lawyers had advised him not to talk after Patricia K. reported him. But she continued to press for an explanation.

"The reason was simply psychological screw-up. I mean I was definitely not only totally immature, but totally out of it with regards to the other sex at the time," Sprouffske said on the tape.

Police in Darien, Ill., arrested Sprouffske last Nov. 22, after he was named in an extradition warrant filed in Los Angeles. He was removed from the priesthood last April, according to prosecutors.

Yesterday, Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Jeffrey M. Harkavy granted requests by both the prosecution and the defense to drop the case against John Anthony Salazar, 47, due to the Supreme Court decision.

Salazar was charged last November with one count each of oral copulation with a person under 18 and a person under 16. The charges involved a male student attending St. Bernard High School and an altar boy at St. Teresita Church in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, prosecutors said last year.

Shortly after the Supreme Court's ruling, three former priests who had been jailed in connection with molestation charges were ordered released on their own recognizance while awaiting hearings to determine whether their cases will also be dismissed.


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