California prosecutors search for victims of priest sexual abuse

By CHELSEA J. CARTER, Associated Press Writer
Monday June 10, 2002

SANTA ANA — Orange County authorities are seeking out potential victims of abuse by priests rather than waiting for people to file police reports. 

Investigators have been digging through civil court cases, following up media reports and working with church officials to identify possible victims. 

Assistant District Attorney Rosanne Froeberg requested the increased efforts after numerous priest abuse claims were made in the media but never showed up as police reports. 

The concern is that some people may not understand that “filing a civil suit or reporting to the diocese does not automatically assure the police are going to be involved in their case,” she said Friday. 

Froeberg said four priests were under criminal investigation and at least five victims had been identified in the ongoing clergy sex scandal. 

Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jon Fleischman said the Diocese of Orange has been cooperating with investigators. 

Across the country, prosecuting agencies have stepped up probes of potential priestly abuse cases. 

In Los Angeles County, the district attorney’s office has threatened to call Cardinal Roger Mahony before a grand jury hearing unless the Los Angeles Archdiocese turns over records of priests accused of sexual abuse. 

The Los Angeles Police Department has 43 investigations involving about 34 priests, including some who are dead, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Saturday editions. Only one or two of the investigations involve recent sex abuse allegations. Many of the cases involve priests whose names were reported to law enforcement by the archdiocese earlier this year. 

To avoid problems with the statute of limitations, police must prove that an old case involved multiple victims and that there was substantial sexual contact, among other things, the Times reported. 

Archdiocese officials have said they are cooperating with authorities. 

Meanwhile, a Pomona priest has pleaded innocent to charges of molesting two girls.