Corruption target faces sex charges
John Malburg, son of the Vernon mayor and a focus of a voter-fraud case, allegedly molested boys while dean at an L.A. Catholic school

By Peter Y. Hong and Paul Pringle
Los Angeles Times
November 17, 2006

A political corruption scandal took a sordid turn Thursday when a defendant in the Vernon voter-fraud prosecution was charged with sexually molesting four boys while serving as dean of students at Daniel Murphy Catholic High School.

John Joseph Malburg, son of Vernon Mayor Leonis Malburg, who is also accused in the corruption case, pleaded not guilty to numerous counts of child sexual abuse, lewd acts and making a videotape for sale of a minor engaged in sex acts.

Authorities said one student appeared in a sexually explicit tape in exchange for a higher grade. In addition, Malburg, 37, is charged with possessing child pornography and secretly videotaping boys while they showered at his Hancock Park home.

As an offshoot of the 19-month corruption probe, investigators began to examine Malburg's contact with the boys over a period of 10 years, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles learned about the sex abuse inquiry sometime before Malburg was fired in July but did not notify parents at the Fairfax-area school, spokesman Tod M. Tamberg said.

Tamberg said the district attorney's office asked the archdiocese to keep the matter confidential. Jane Robison, a district attorney's spokeswoman, could not confirm that.

"The school has been cooperating fully," Tamberg said. He said there had been no earlier complaints against Malburg, who joined Daniel Murphy in 1997.

In the complaint, Malburg is accused of surreptitiously videotaping one of the students two months after the school fired him.

Outside the Detroit Street campus, several students and parents said they had not been told of the charges against Malburg and declined to discuss them.

One parent, who asked not to be named, said she was "shocked" at the news but didn't fault the school for not informing parents.

"There's no need to panic," she said.

The allegations come as the archdiocese struggles to settle more than 500 sexual abuse lawsuits. At least six of those named in the suits once worked at Daniel Murphy, although not in recent years.

Mary Grant, western director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a group that represents alleged victims of pedophile priests, said the Malburg case "shows that nothing has changed in the L.A. Archdiocese."

She also said it "seems odd" that the archdiocese did not alert parents.

Malburg also pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of perjury and false voter registration in connection with an alleged family-run, decades-long corruption scheme in Vernon, a tiny industrial city a few miles south of downtown Los Angeles, where his father has held elective office for more than 50 years.

Leonis Malburg pleaded not guilty to seven felony counts alleging various forms of voter fraud. His wife, Dominica, who is the younger Malburg's mother, entered a not guilty plea to two counts of voter fraud.

The Malburgs are accused of living in Hancock Park while voting in Vernon, 20 miles away.

The district attorney's office said investigators looking for evidence of corruption allegedly found child pornography on a computer seized from John Malburg's home.

They also confiscated pornographic home videos, officials said.

The 12 counts against Malburg cover alleged incidents from 1996 through 2000 and from 2004 to September of this year. He is accused of molesting a boy whom he met while working as a psychologist -- before he was hired at Daniel Murphy.

Malburg was released on $495,000 bail. Approached in court, he declined to comment.

Daniel Murphy, formerly called St. John Vianney, is named for a Los Angeles philanthropist. It has produced several prominent graduates, including Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks and Fire Chief William Bamattre.

"It's disturbing," Parks, a 1961 graduate, said of the allegations. "It doesn't help the school and it doesn't help the church."

Parks said it was particularly troubling given the extensive publicity of the archdiocese's sexual abuse crisis. "With all the press coverage on this, you wonder why there are those who still think they can get away with it," he said.

Bamattre's office did not return calls.

In the Vernon case, longtime city administrator Bruce Malkenhorst Sr. pleaded not guilty to charges that he spent $60,000 in city money for personal use, including massages, golf outings, meals and political contributions.

Malkenhorst was the highest paid municipal official in the state before stepping down two years ago. He earned more than $600,000 a year for running a city with fewer than 100 residents. The city also provided him with a limousine.

Prosecutors allege that the Malburgs and their allies ran Vernon as a fiefdom.

Earlier this year, the city hired armed private investigators to shadow candidates running against Leonis Malburg and other City Council incumbents.

The city evicted the challengers from their residences and removed their names from the ballot, although a judge later ruled that the election, Vernon's first in 25 years, had to go forward.

Malburg was reelected, but the results were disputed and the case ended up in court.

Vernon was founded in 1905 by a charismatic Basque immigrant named John Baptiste Leonis, who over the next few decades built a political machine that chased dissenters out of town.


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