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LAPD asked to investigate Cardinal Mahony

A letter alleges that Mahony, above, ordered Baker to undergo counseling, then allowed the priest to resume his work in the ministry.
A letter alleges that Mahony, above, ordered Baker to undergo counseling, then allowed the priest to resume his work in the ministry.  

From Thelma Gutierrez and Stanley Wilson
CNN Los Angeles Bureau

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- City officials Friday asked the Los Angeles Police Department to investigate whether Cardinal Roger Mahony and others within the archdiocese may have violated criminal laws by failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse.

"I encourage you as the new chief of the Los Angeles Police Department to investigate these allegations ... so that we can determine if prosecutions are warranted," said Los Angeles City Attorney Rockard Delgadillo in a letter to Chief Martin Pomeroy, who took over as acting chief following the resignation of Bernard Parks last month.

Under California's Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, members of the clergy must report to law enforcement authorities any allegation of child sexual abuse within 36 hours of learning about it, with the exception of reports obtained during the sacrament of confession.

Mahony, head of the nation's largest Catholic archdiocese, said Tuesday he was aware of the allegations against the priest, who was identified in a civil complaint as Rev. Michael Stephen Baker.

The 54-year-old former priest is accused of molesting two brothers over a 13-year period, beginning in 1986, when they were five and seven years of age.

In a letter Tuesday to the 1,200 priests serving the Los Angeles archdiocese, Mahony said Baker told him in 1986 that he had engaged in sexual abuse of minors.

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Mahony, who had taken the reins of the archdiocese the year before, ordered Baker to undergo counseling, then allowed the priest to resume his work in the ministry.

Baker did so until 2000, when Mahony removed him after becoming aware of a pending civil lawsuit on behalf of the two alleged victims, Mahony's letter said.

In late 2000, Mahony approved a confidential $1.3 million civil settlement with the alleged victims after disclosures that Baker had allegedly continued molesting them until 1999, even traveling to Arizona and Mexico where the brothers had relocated with their mother, according to the civil complaint.

In their complaint, the alleged victims said they both had become dependent on alcohol given to them by Baker when they were minors. In late 1999, when the brothers were older than 18, they confided to their mother about the abuse, the complaint says.

In his letter to the priests of his archdiocese, Mahony said he accepted full responsibility for failing to take action earlier.

"If I had known in those years what I discovered in early 2000, I would have dismissed him from all ministry and requested his dismissal from the priesthood in the late 1980s," Mahony wrote.

After learning the archdiocese had provided only verbal information to police about the case, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley demanded in a letter Thursday that Mahony turn over all documentation related to the alleged abuse.

Mahony promised Friday to deliver the documents, including confidential medical records, by early next week.

Authorities are investigating possible criminal charges against Baker, according to Sgt. Dan Scott, lead investigator in the sex crimes unit for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

Baker was allowed to retire from the Los Angeles Archdiocese in late 2000 after being laicized, according to Mahony's letter.

Authorities are investigating when church officials discovered Baker's allegations and whether the archdiocese concealed information from law enforcement authorities, said George Cardona, chief of the city attorney's criminal division.

The civil lawsuit against Baker names at least 20 defendants including Mahony, who "knew or should have known" about Baker's alleged child sexual abuse.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles did not return calls for comment and CNN was not able to reach Baker.




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