Church asks court to shield its files

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week A support group for alleged victims of clergy abuse reacted angrily to the development, however, saying that Cardinal Roger Mahony was trying to keep potentially incriminating documents out of the hands of investigators. “Mahony’s insistence on using every convoluted legal strategy he can devise only delays healing for victims and prevention for innocents kids,” said Eric Barragan, a spokesman for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. “Wouldn’t it be refreshing – just once – to see Mahony comply with a court order instead of trying to dodge one?” The state Supreme Court ruling Wednesday marked a critical development in a legal battle between Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who subpoenaed the files three years ago, and church officials. Mahony has argued that opening the files would violate the church’s constitutional right of religious freedom. Release of the files would mean prosecutors could scour the personnel files for evidence that could result in criminal charges against additional clergy members – and possibly even Mahony himself, according to those familiar with the case. One former priest, Michael Wempe, is expected to go on trial within weeks on three counts of committing a lewd act on a child and one count of oral copulation of a person under 16. The District Attorney’s Office has said it is also investigating several other cases that could fall within the statute of limitations for prosecution of sexual abuse. The nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese asked an appeals court not to release the confidential personnel files of two former priests accused of sex abuse, despite a state Supreme Court ruling earlier this week that gave prosecutors access to the documents. In a letter filed Friday with the 2nd District Court of Appeal, attorney Jeffrey S. Koenig said the Archdiocese of Los Angeles plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case within the next few weeks. “If the privileged documents are turned over to the grand jury, our efforts to obtain further … review will be rendered moot,” the letter said. Tod Tamberg, archdiocese spokesman, didn’t immediately return a call Friday, nor did other attorneys for the archdiocese. “We just want to see the files,” said Sandi Gibbons, district attorney spokesman. “That’s all.” The archdiocese also faces more than 550 civil lawsuits alleging clergy abuse dating back decades. Those cases are currently in settlement talks, but trial dates in a handful of cases were recently set for sometime next year. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more