After Claims from Many, LA Priest Abuse Case Rests on One Man
By Linda Deutsch
The Associated Press, carried in The Press-Enterprise
February 9, 2006
After three weeks of tears and accusations from a parade of eight past molestation victims, jurors are being asked to decide whether one additional man, Jayson B., is telling the truth when he says he was abused by retired priest Michael Wempe.
The eight who testified and five others whom Wempe's lawyers admit were abused decades ago are not the issue in this first trial of a priest whose past misconduct could not be prosecuted because of legal time limits.
Jayson alone, now 26, has brought Wempe to court and his is the only case that could send the former priest to jail. Wempe's defense lawyer spent the last day of testimony Wednesday casting doubt on Jayson's veracity, suggesting he made up his story of abuse to avenge his two brothers who were abused by Wempe years earlier.
Both sides were to present final arguments Thursday, the prosecution portraying the 66-year-old Wempe as a pedophile who habitually preyed on young boys and the defense saying he was cured during a church ordered treatment in 1987 and never molested again.
The case is expected to go to the jury Friday.
Jayson B. claims he was sexually abused by Wempe between 1990 and 1995 at Wempe's office at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and in two cars.
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. He testified that he played games on Wempe's office computer and remembered the priest using a Windows program.
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.
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.
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.
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