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 Tuesday that they will review newly released priest files for additional evidence.
Thousands of pages from the internal disciplinary files of 14 priests made public Monday show 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 Tuesday to a message seeking comment.
Legal specialists, however, said that 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.
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.
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 coverup attempt. He didn’t return a call Tuesday.
The files of dozens more accused priests are expected to be released in the coming weeks as part of a 2007 settlement agreement with more than 500 alleged victims.