Former Catholic Priest Michael Wempe Free While Awaiting Trial

The Associated Press, carried in The Tribune
August 17, 2004

LOS ANGELES - A retired Roman Catholic priest who had been jailed since September on charges that he molested a boy in the 1990s is free on bond while awaiting trial.

Michael Wempe was released from jail Saturday, a day after his bail was reduced from $500,000 to $100,000, authorities said.

Superior Court Judge Samuel Mayerson ordered the 64-year-old Wempe to wear an electronic tracking device and avoid children under 18 unless they are accompanied by an adult.

Wempe, who had been living at a Seal Beach retirement home with his mother, will be allowed to shop for groceries and attend medical appointments, court hearings and meetings with attorneys, the judge said.

The retired priest also will be permitted to attend church, but as a parishioner.

Wempe was due back in court Oct. 19.

He has pleaded not guilty to five charges that he sexually abused a boy over a five-year period.

The current case stems from charges filed in September, months after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling voided 42 other sexual abuse allegations against Wempe. The alleged victim, now in his mid-20s, is the brother of two previous alleged victims.

Wempe was first charged with molesting five boys across Southern California between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s. The charges were thrown out when the nation's high court struck down a California law that erased the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases from 1988 and earlier.