Defense Targets Story of Alleged Victim in Trial of Former Priest

By Linda Deutsch
Associated Press, carried in San Francisco Chronicle
February 8, 2006

(02-08) 16:06 PST Los Angeles (AP) --

The defense attorney for retired priest Michael Wempe closed his case Wednesday with witnesses who cast doubt on the story told by the prosecution's star witness, an alleged molestation victim.

With both sides rested, attorneys were scheduled to deliver final arguments on Thursday. The case will likely go to the jury on Friday.

Jayson B. claims he was sexually abused by Wempe between 1990 and 1995 at Wempe's office at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He testified that he played games on Wempe's office computer and remembered the priest using a Windows program.

As a young boy, he said, he would sit on Wempe's lap in front of the computer while the priest typed with one hand and fondled him with the other.

On Wednesday, a technology expert who worked at the hospital testified that Wempe's computer had not been equipped for video games nor could it run a Windows program.

Administrative hospital employees such as Wempe had "dumb computers" in those days that were equipped for basic word processing but nothing else. said Spencer Soohoo, director of infrastructure technology at the facility.

Jurors also heard from Ed Torres, a district attorney's senior investigator whose written report on an interview with Jayson last March conflicted with much of what the accuser said on the witness stand.

Under questioning by defense attorney Leonard Levine, Torres said he was told nothing about the case before he went to the hospital with two prosecutors to interview Jayson on March 25, 2005.

He said he conferred with trial prosecutor, Todd Hicks, and decided not to follow his usual practice of tape recording interviews.

In his report, submitted June 1, 2005, Torres said Jayson claimed the majority of molestations occurred in the chapel and "the priest's rectory" at the hospital.

Asked to explain, Torres said, "I'm not Catholic, so I figured the rectory was an office for the priest."

"You substituted the word rectory for office?" Levine asked.

"Yes," said the witness.

Jayson claimed in court he was molested in the priest's office and in two cars in the parking lot. He denied being molested in the chapel.

Torres also said Jayson told him that he frequently had lunch with the priest in a cafeteria at the hospital. On the witness stand, Jayson said they always had lunch at a restaurant away from the facility.

Torres admitted to errors in his report. He wrote that Jayson claimed to have been molested in the 1970s and '80s. He said he knows now that Jayson wasn't born until 1979.

"I must have made a mistake," the witness said.

Torres also said he believes Jayson is now about 30, when he is actually 26, and said he referred in his report to "repressed memories" although Jayson never used the term.

Torres said he submitted his report to a supervisor and to the prosecutor and was never challenged on its accuracy.

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

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

During the three-week trial, jurors were allowed to hear from eight of the 13 prior victims, including Jayson's two brothers.

The defense is expected to argue that after Wempe was sent away for treatment at a monastery in New Mexico, he never molested again.


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