|Ex-Priest Jailed in L.A. in Abuse of Tucsonan
By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
January 21, 2006
The high-profile arrest of a former Roman Catholic priest from Los Angeles stems from accusations that he sexually abused a Tucson resident.
Michael Stephen Baker, formerly of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is in jail in California on suspicion of lewd acts against a child.
The Thursday arrest of Baker, 58, is connected to an accusation that he molested a child in Southern California from 1988 to 1996, said Sgt. Dan Scott of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's special victims bureau.
The boy is now 27 and living in Tucson, his attorney said. He is one of two brothers who say they were repeatedly raped by Baker for 15 years, beginning in 1984 and ending in 1999, according to Lynne M. Cadigan, their Tucson attorney. California's statute of limitations prevents authorities from filing charges for any sexual abuse that occurred before Jan. 1, 1988.
The brothers are not speaking to the media, on Cadigan's recommendation. Cadigan says they are former Catholics who no longer attend church and continue to suffer severe emotional trauma.
In 2000, the brothers received a settlement of $1.3 million from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, including $500,000 from Baker, Cadigan said.
Authorities say Baker was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport at 2 p.m. Thursday, following a four-year investigation. Bail was set at $1 million, and authorities planned to search Baker's residences in La Mirada and Huntington Beach. He was returning home after traveling in Thailand.
The case now is under review by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Scott said. Baker was charged once before with sexually abusing children, in 2003, but the case was dismissed after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the prosecution of sex-related child abuse in cases where the statute of limitations had expired.
Baker's name was on a list of 126 priests accused of sexual abuse who served in the Los Angeles Archdiocese between 1930 and 2003 and whose personnel files were released by the archdiocese in October. Baker's file says 23 people accused him of sexual abuse the third-highest number of accusers of the 126 priests in the report.
According to his personnel file, Baker told Cardinal Roger M. Mahony in 1986 about having a relationship with two boys. But rather than being suspended, Baker was placed on sick leave and then attended a residential treatment center in New Mexico before returning to the archdiocese in 1987.
He was removed from ministry in 2000, the same year as the settlement with the two Tucson brothers. He has not been defrocked a process of permanent removal from the priesthood, also called laicization that requires approval from the Vatican.
In their civil suit against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the brothers say the abuse began when they were 5 and 7 and attending a Los Angeles-area church.
The family moved to Mexico in 1986 but the brothers say Baker flew them to Palm Springs and Los Angeles and continued to abuse them. The brothers began living in Tucson during the mid-1990s, Cadigan said.
- Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to www.azstarnet.com/faith for other recent religion coverage.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.