By Andrew Rafferty (NBC News)
March 12, 2013
Four clergy sex abuse cases will cost the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles nearly $10 million, a law firm representing the alleged victims announced Tuesday.
The cases, in which settlements were reached ranging from $995,000 to $4,000,000, allege that former priest Michael Baker repeatedly molested four victims beginning in the 1970s, and that Cardinal Roger Mahony knew of Baker's criminal behavior and allowed him to continue as a priest.
“These cases against former priest Michael Baker are symbolic of the sex abuse scandals that rocked the Los Angeles Archdiocese under Cardinal Roger Mahony,” lawyers for the alleged victims said in a statement.
Two of the now settled cases involving Baker were set to go to trial next month. A judge had said attorneys for the plaintiffs could pursue punitive damages.
In 2007, Baker was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to 12 counts of molestation against young boys. In 2011, he was released with credit for time served.
Mahony is currently in Rome helping to select the next pope.
J. Michael Hennigan, an attorney for the Los Angeles Archdiocese, said Mahony is aware of the settlement and the cardinal acknowledges that mistakes were made. He confirmed that the total settlement was for $9.9 million.
"The Archdiocese has always taken full responsibility for Michael Baker's actions, it was just a matter of agreeing on a number," said Hennigan. "We're happy to move passed this."
Mahony — who retired as head of the L.A. Archdiocese in 2011 and was stripped of his remaining diocesan duties in January — has repeatedly apologized for the handling of the sex abuse scandal.
But he again found himself the subject of scrutiny after publishing blog posts referring to himself as a scapegoat amid calls for him to abstain from attending the papal conclave.
Lawyers for the victims said they will hold a press conference Thursday in Los Angeles.