Friday, October 21, 2005


LA prosecutors reopen probe of priest who admitted abuse

LOS ANGELES - Prosecutors have reopened a child abuse investigation into a former priest who remained in ministry despite allegedly admitting he had molested children, attorneys involved in the case said.

The new investigation involves two brothers who said Michael Stephen Baker molested them between 1984 and 1999. An earlier criminal case against Baker, 57, was dismissed in 2003 after the U.S. Supreme Court barred prosecuting decades-old sexual abuse cases.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office obtained visas last spring so the brothers, who now live in Mexico, could be interviewed in the U.S., said their attorney, Lynne M. Cadigan, who got the brothers a $1.3 million settlement from Baker and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Baker's criminal attorney, Don Steier, said he was not surprised by the new investigation

"It's unfortunate, but it comes as no surprise," Steier said.

Bill Hodgman, head deputy district attorney, said Wednesday he could not comment.

According to the archdiocese, Baker told Cardinal Roger M. Mahony in 1986 that he had molested children from 1978 to 1985.

Mahony did not notify police but sent Baker to a residential facility that treated priests for sexual abuse problems. Afterward, he was assigned to a series of nine other parishes but barred from having one-on-one contact with minors - restrictions he violated three times, according to church personnel file summaries that the archdiocese released.

Baker has been accused of molesting more than 20 children between 1974 and 1999, according to the archdiocese.

Mahony removed Baker from ministry in 2000, at the time of the confidential settlement with the two brothers who now live in Mexico. He didn't notify police of the allegations until 2003.

The brothers, who now are in their mid-20s, have said that Baker began abusing them at St. Hilary Catholic Church in Pico Rivera when they were 5 and 7 years old. After the family moved to Mexico in 1986, Baker flew them to Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Arizona, where the abuse allegedly continued until 1999, they have said.

The allegations were the basis for the civil settlement with the church and Baker.

See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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