Cardinal Mahony Accused of Perjury in Sex Abuse Case

By Don Lattin
San Francisco Chronicle [California]
December 11, 2004

One of California's leading sexual abuse lawyers said Friday that newly released court documents show that Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony committed perjury during a 1998 trial in Stockton.

The accusation by Stockton attorney Larry Drivon came one day after a transcript of a deposition Mahony gave in Los Angeles on Nov. 23. was made public.

A spokesman for Mahony called the accusation "ridiculous."

Mahony served as the bishop of the Diocese of Stockton from 1980 to 1985, when he was elevated to head the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese.

The Los Angeles prelate's deposition involves his supervision of the Rev. Oliver O'Grady, a convicted child molester whose actions have cost the California Catholic church millions of dollars. The deposition is in connection to a recent wave of lawsuits made possible by a 2002 state law that temporarily abolished the statute of limitations on abuse claims against the church and other employers of known sexual predators.

During his testimony in a 1998 trial, Mahony told a Stockton jury that O'Grady was the only priest accused of molestation during his years in the Central Valley.

But in his deposition last month, Mahony said he dismissed two other clerics: visiting Mexican priests accused of child molestation in the Stockton diocese.

When asked in the deposition about the discrepancy with his 1998 testimony, Mahony said, "I had forgotten about those incidents."

"That proves that his testimony in Stockton was not truthful," said Drivon, one of the attorneys in the 1998 case. "He said before that O'Grady was the one he knew about."

Mahony's spokesman, Tod Tamberg, said the inconsistency shows that "human beings forget things."

In his Nov. 23 deposition, attorney John Manly asked Mahony how he could have forgotten dismissing two priests for alleged child molestation.

"This trial was some 13 years after I had left the Diocese of Stockton," Mahony replied. "We had many events in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and I was very preoccupied. We had the visit of the Holy Father. We had the earthquakes. We had riots. We had everything. And I simply did not remember everything that happened many years ago in Stockton."

Asked Friday whether he thought Mahony committed perjury in the 1998 trial, Manly said, "the evidence speaks for itself."

"No one forgets about the first time they find out about a priest abusing a child -- especially a bishop," Manly said. "There could have been a nuclear detonation and you wouldn't forget about that. Mahony himself interviewed victims and talked to the police."

Tamberg said Mahony's dismissal of the two accused Mexican priests -- the Rev. Antonio Munoz in 1981 and the Rev. Antonio Camacho in 1984 -- shows that Mahony "did the absolute right thing."

"He bounced these men from the ministry and notified the police," Tamberg said. "They were gone from his diocese."

Munoz was back in Mexico when Mahony learned of the abuse allegations, Tamberg said.

"The other fellow (Camacho) was ordered out, refused to leave, and the cardinal called immigration and said he was no longer an employee of the Diocese of Stockton."

Both priests eventually returned to Mexico, Tamberg said.

In his 1998 testimony in the Stockton trial, Mahony also denied that he knew O'Grady was a child molester.

But that statement was contradicted by the 1998 testimony of Dr. William Morris.

According to the trial transcript, Morris testified that O'Grady had admitted being a "molester of children" and that Mahony had told Morris that he knew about O'Grady's pedophilia problem.

Morris' written report warned that O'Grady suffered "a severe defect in (sexual and social) maturation" and "is not truly called to the priesthood."

Nevertheless, Mahony sent the priest on to other parishes, where the molestations continued.

After a 1998 Chronicle story that first reported the evidence against Mahony in the O'Grady case, David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, called the events in Stockton "the clearest documented history of coverup by a diocese."

The Stockton jury agreed.

It initially awarded two Turlock brothers who had sued the diocese $30 million: $6 million in compensatory damages and $24 million in punitive damages.

A judge later reduced the award, and in 1999, the Diocese of Stockton agreed to pay the two brothers $7.65 million.

O'Grady is one of scores of California Catholic priests whose past actions have spawned hundreds of new lawsuits. They were filed last year under a 2002 state law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on damage suits against institutions that gave known child molesters access to more victims.

Last week, the Diocese of Orange settled 87 of those claims for a record $100 million.

In Northern California, pretrial motions in some 150 abuse suits against dioceses across the region are being heard in Oakland by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ronald Sabraw.

Settlement negotiations continue in advance of a March 3 date set for the first trials in the Bay Area cases.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.