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Los Angeles priest files reignite coverup inquiry

| Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 9:22 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors who have been stymied for years in their attempts to build a criminal conspiracy case against retired Los Angeles Archdiocese Cardinal Roger Mahony and other church leaders said on Tuesday they will review newly released priest files for additional evidence.

Thousands of pages from the internal disciplinary files of 14 priests made public on Monday show that Mahony and other top aides maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests and provide damage control for the church.

Some of the documents provide the strongest evidence to date that Mahony and another key official worked to protect a priest who revealed in therapy sessions that he had raped an 11-year-old boy and abused up to 17 boys.

The top aide, then-Monsignor Thomas J. Curry, is now an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese's Santa Barbara region. He did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Legal experts, however, said even if the documents contain new evidence, it will be almost impossible to prosecute because of problems with the statute of limitations. It's also unclear whether prosecutors, who received some documents via subpoena years ago, already have seen the files made public Monday.

The time window for prosecuting obstruction of justice is 10 years and for conspiracy, it's three years after the last overt criminal act, said Lawrence Rosenthal, a criminal law professor at Chapman University School of Law.

Much of the material in the files dates to the mid-1980s, when Mahony was handling some of the most troublesome problem priests.

“The problem is, a prosecutor looking at this has to do time travel, basically, and go back to the law as it existed at the time of the offenses,” Rosenthal said. “And at the time of the offense, you're going to have significant statute of limitations problems.”

Mahony apologized Monday for mistakes he made after taking over the nation's largest archdiocese in 1985. An attorney for the church, J. Michael Hennigan, has denied that there was a cover-up attempt. He didn't return a call Tuesday.

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