Who Are the L.A. Priests Prosecuted for Sex Abuse?

By Barbara Jones
LA Daily News
February 9, 2013

Leonard A. Abercrombie



As the sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church unfolded in the early 2000s, victims of clergy molestation in Los Angeles pinned their hopes on a state law that had retroactively lifted the statute of limitations on prosecuting sex crimes.

In a 2003 ruling, however, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law, a decision that affected most of the clergy abuse cases then being investigated by police or pursued by prosecutors.

Of the priests whose records were released last month, fewer than a dozen could be prosecuted for abuse that was recent enough to fall within the statute of limitations.

-- Father Michael Baker admitted to then-Archbishop Roger Mahony in 1986 that he was a pedophile, and he was sent to therapy, then transferred to nine different parishes. He was accused in church files of molesting 23 children.

Baker was charged with molestation in 2002, but the case was dismissed because of the Supreme Court ruling. More victims came forward, and he pleaded guilty in 2007 to a dozen counts of molesting two boys at parishes in Los Angeles and Pico Rivera.

He was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison but was released after four years because of credit for work and time served

The plea deal required him to register with law enforcement as a sex offender, but kept his name off the Megan's Law website. He remains on parole and is living in Orange County, state officials say.

-- According to the website bishopaccount, retired priest John Feeney was living in Los Angeles in 2002 when he was arrested on charges of molesting two boys in his home diocese in Wisconsin.

He was convicted there in 2004 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released in November 2011.

According to the Wisconsin sex-offender website, he is living at the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Mo. The facility is run by the Servants of the Paraclete, which also operated the treatment facility in Jemez Springs, N.M., where abusive priests were secretly sent for therapy by Los Angeles Archdiocese officials.

According to published reports, Feeney was removed from ministry in 1986 and defrocked in 2005.

-- Gerald Fessard was allowed to continue in the ministry although he'd pleaded no contest in 1987 to one count each of battery and child molestation after fondling five teenage boys at Our Lady Queen of Angels High School Seminary.

The plea deal got him a sentence of three years' probation, and his record was later expunged.

Published reports say he manages a mobile home park in Gardena.

-- The Report to the People of God, released in 2004 by the archdiocese, said Father Richard Henry was accused of abusing 13 children over a 10-year period.

Henry pleaded no contest in 1993 to molesting four children at Holy Redeemer Church in Montrose and served three years of an eight-year prison sentence.

The website, one of several tracking the church's sex-abuse scandal, said Henry died Jan. 10 in Oregon.

-- Stephen Hernandez was arrested in 2004 on charges of molesting a 14-year-old boy while serving as a counselor at a juvenile hall. Faced with a 10-year prison sentence, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and received probation.

Victims attorney Raymond Boucher, who has tracked abusive priests, said Hernandez is living in Rowland Heights.

-- Lawrence Lovell spends his days working in the kitchen at a prison in Arizona, where he was convicted of child molestation.

Lovell had been convicted of child molestation in Los Angeles in 1986 and removed from the ministry that year.

At the time of his arrest on the Arizona charges, he was married, with stepchildren, and working for the University of New Mexico Mental Health Center.

-- George Miller is among the few former priests whose names appear on the state's Megan's Law website, which lists information on convicted pedophiles.

Miller pleaded guilty in 2008 to molesting a 9-year-old altar boy nearly 20 years earlier at Guardian Angel Church in Pacoima. As part of his plea, Miller acknowledged molesting the boy's older brother and two other boys.

He lives in Oxnard, next door to Carl Sutphin, a former priest who had molestation charges against him dropped because of the statute-of-limitations ruling.

-- Church officials sent Father Carlos Rodriguez for treatment in 1987, after he molested one of two teenage boys he took on a trip to the Grand Canyon.

While no charges resulted from that incident, he was convicted in 2004 of molesting two brothers, and served three years of an eight-year prison sentence. He is listed on the Megan's Law website, which says he is living in Huntington Park.

-- Donald Roemer pleaded guilty in 1981 to sexually abusing a 7-year-old Thousand Oaks boy, one of the earliest clergy cases to draw public attention. Rather than prison, he was sent to the state mental hospital at Atascadero.

According to the Megan's Law website, he is living in Anaheim.

-- John Salazar was on parole in 1991 for molesting two boys in Los Angeles when he was convicted in Texas of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old man. Based on his criminal record, he was sentenced to life in prison, although his conviction was overturned in 2011 because prosecutors failed to tell the defense about a possible civil suit against Salazar.

According to Salazar's attorney, he pleaded guilty in October to a sex charge that carried an eight-year sentence -- time served -- and was released. Salazar remains in Texas and was required to register as a sex offender.

-- Michael Wempe had been charged in 2003 with 42 counts of child molestation, but those were dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.

In 2009, he was convicted on one count of molestation and sentenced to three years in prison.

Listed on the Megan's Law registry, Wempe is living in Seal Beach.



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