Defense Disputes Car Testimony in Molestation Trial

The Associated Press, carried in Daily Breeze [Los Angeles CA]
February 8, 2006

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 after 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," Margaret Percival said.

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.


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