Mother of Molest Victims Pleads with Lawyers in LA Priest Case

By Linda Deutsch
Associated Press, carried in San Francisco Chronicle
February 7, 2006

(02-07) 17:52 PST Los Angeles (AP) --

Defense witnesses for a former priest charged with child molestation contradicted the recollections of the man's accuser Tuesday, saying at the time the assaults allegedly took place Michael Wempe didn't have the cars he was said to have committed them in.

The description of the entrance to the hospital parking lot where Wempe's accuser said he was molested also was called into question by one witness.

The defense began laying out its case after the prosecution rested following two days of tearful testimony from the mother of Wempe's accuser.

She was one of many prosecution witnesses who told jurors about a distinctive "purple-blue" Thunderbird driven by the priest.

"I thought it was a strange car for a man to drive," said Margaret Percival.

But the first defense witness, car leasing agent Robert A. Smith, said Wempe did not take possession of the car until 1995 when it was leased for him in connection with his job as chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He said the car's color was called "chameleon blue" because it changed color depending on the light.

The molestation of Jayson B., Percival's youngest son, is alleged to have occurred five times between 1990 and 1995. The man, now 26, described the colorful car and also testified about being assaulted in a white Ford Explorer. The leasing agent said Wempe obtained that vehicle in 1997.

Before he owned either, Smith said, Wempe drove a white Ford Thunderbird, a car which Jayson was unable to identify in pictures.

The defense also called to the stand Richard Massey, manager of parking lots at Cedars-Sinai, who testified Wempe had a parking space in a VIP lot that is exceptionally crowded. To accommodate the 9,000 employees who park there, he said, valets often move the cars around and a security guard is on duty with a security camera always operating.

Jayson testified he was molested in a parking lot, but his descriptions of it were vague and he said Wempe did not always park in the same lot. Massey's explanation of the hospital entrances also conflicted with Jayson's account.

The defense is expected to argue that the car's identification was part of a plan concocted by Jayson's two older brothers to falsely accuse Wempe.

The 66-year-old former priest denies molesting Jayson but has acknowledged Jayson's two older brothers were among 13 boys he assaulted in the 1970s and 1980s. He cannot be prosecuted for those crimes because the statute of limitations has expired.

Wempe's lawyer has suggested Jayson, now 26, falsely accused Wempe to seek vengeance for his brothers.

Percival, mother of the three brothers, broke down several times Tuesday as attorneys discussed details of her sons' assaults.

"Please don't tell me any more!" she said at one point.

Court had to be recessed briefly when a prosecutor asked if she knew one of her sons had turned to drugs, including crystal meth. At another point, Deputy District Attorney Todd Hicks asked her if she knew her youngest son had been orally copulated by the priest.

"Oh my God!" she gasped, her head falling to her chest as she burst into sobs.

"I cannot speak to my sons about this," she said. "We will never speak about this."

Percival said she had no idea her sons were being molested until the two older sons came to her in 2002 and revealed they had retrieved repressed memories of their abuse.

"I was shattered," she said. "I was so full of guilt that this happened to my children. You're supposed to protect children and I failed to do this."

She said she accepted the reassurance from her older son that Jayson was not a victim.

When newspapers later reported that a young man had come forward with new allegations against Wempe, she said she did not connect it until an older son told her it was Jayson.

"It was the worst day of my life," she said.


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