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Los Angeles cardinal unlikely to face charges

LOS ANGELES — The nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese has agreed to pay $720 million to clergy abuse victims over the past decade and released internal files that showed Cardinal Roger Mahony shielded priests and ordered a surrogate to withhold evidence from police, yet Mahony and other archdiocese leaders are unlikely to face criminal charges.

With the final $13 million settlement of existing old cases announced Wednesday, Mahony has emerged from the scandal with his reputation tarnished, but his place in the church intact — even after being publicly rebuked by his successor for internal church files showing that he and others worked to protect priests, keep parishioners in the dark and defend the church's image.

By settling the cases, the archdiocese avoids a trial in which Mahony would have been publicly questioned under oath about what plaintiffs' lawyers said was an attempt to thwart a Los Angeles police investigation.

During a deposition unsealed Wednesday, Mahony acknowledged he told an underling not to give police a list of altar boys who had worked with the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera. He testified he wasn't trying to hinder police, but didn't want the boys to be scarred by the investigation and that he felt the altar boys were too old to be potential victims of the Mexican priest.

Police later found that 25 of Aguilar Rivera's alleged victims were altar boys and the other victim was training with the priest to be one, said Anthony DeMarco, a plaintiff attorney.

Mahony, who retired as head of the archdiocese in 2011, was admonished last year by Archbishop Jose Gomez for his handling of the abuse crisis, but he has avoided criminal prosecution, despite investigations by the Los Angeles County district attorney and the U.S. attorney's office.

Esther Miller, a past victim of clergy abuse, points at her perpetrator, Michael Nocita, pictured far left, during a news conference Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Associated Press

Esther Miller, a past victim of clergy abuse, points at her perpetrator, Michael Nocita, pictured far left, during a news conference Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles cardinal unlikely to face charges 02/19/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 10:20pm]
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