Prosecutors haven't discovered enough evidence during eight years of investigation to charge the leaders of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles for their handling of the clergy abuse scandal, according to a memo provided Wednesday.
The investigation of alleged sex abuse by priests remained active, but a criminal conspiracy case against archdiocese officials was "more and more remote" because of the passage of time, said the memo written last week by Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman.
Investigators have insufficient evidence to fill in a timeline stretching over 20 years and are hampered by the statute of limitations, Hodgman wrote. The district attorney's office did subpoena documents from the archdiocese and hoped to use the material to build more cases, but the effort was stymied by reluctant victims and insufficient evidence to corroborate what was in the documents, Hodgman wrote.
The memo was released in response to questions about District Attorney Steve Cooley's handling of the priest abuse investigation, which began in 2002. Cooley is in the final week of a campaign to become the Republican nominee for California attorney general.
Cardinal Roger Mahony has come under fire for his handling of several abusive priests during his tenure in the Los Angeles archdiocese and agreed to pay $660 million in 2007 to more than 500 alleged clergy abuse victims. A federal grand jury is also probing the archdiocese's handling of the scandal. The memo, which contains redacted portions, does not name Mahony as the subject of its investigation and only refers to the church hierarchy.
Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said he had not seen the memo. Still, any suggestion of criminal wrongdoing by Mahony or others in the church leadership was false, he added. "Our documents and actions have been scrutinized for nearly 10
years by judges and investigators, and numerous archdiocesan officials have spent hundreds of hours answering questions under oath," he said.
"While Cardinal Mahony has said that mistakes were made in dealing with individual cases of abuse in past decades, no facts have established that these mistakes were anything other than mistakes," Tamberg said.
Prosecutors have won convictions against six priests since 2002 and were forced to dismiss 11 cases in 2003 after the U.S. Supreme Court found a law that extended the statute of limitations in some sex abuse cases was unconstitutional. Investigators are currently pursuing a case against another priest, the memo said.