Judge asked to hold Cardinal Mahony in contempt of court
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Attorneys for alleged clergy sex abuse victims have asked a judge to consider holding Cardinal Roger Mahony in contempt of court for resisting depositions in cases that date to his years as bishop of the Stockton Diocese.
Mahony now heads the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest in the nation. The contempt motion targeting him was filed late Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court.
Attorneys want to question Mahony because he led the Diocese of Stockton from 1980 to 1985 and supervised former Lodi priest Oliver O'Grady, who was later convicted of child molestation.
The Stockton Diocese previously paid two brothers $7 million in damages after a jury found it didn't do enough to prevent the abuse by O'Grady.
Attorneys want to depose Mahony in six other civil lawsuits because they believe he knew O'Grady was a pedophile but still transferred and promoted him.
"We think Cardinal Mahony has a tremendous amount of knowledge about the Stockton Diocese. He was the bishop there for five years, and he put Oliver O'Grady in parishes with schools," Orange County attorney John Manly said.
Manly represents a 1970s altar boy at Lodi's St. Anne's Catholic Church who says that O'Grady sexually assaulted him. The former altar boy, now living in Oregon, has a lawsuit pending against the diocese.
Mahony has repeatedly said he has no knowledge of the Stockton cases in question because they occurred in the 1970s, which was before he took over as bishop.
O'Grady was a priest at St. Anne's from 1971 to 1978. He was transferred to parishes in Stockton, Hughson, Turlock and San Andreas before being arrested in 1993. He pleaded guilty that year to four counts of sexual abuse with a child under 14.
O'Grady served seven years in state prison and paroled in late 2000. He was then deported to his native Ireland. The Stockton Diocese has been named in six lawsuits involving O'Grady.
In Los Angeles, Mahony is battling to keep 2,000 pages of confidential priest files from being made public. A retired judge is considering whether to make the records available to a grand jury investigating possible criminal charges.
The archdiocese also faces more than 400 civil cases filed by people alleging abuse by priests.
The contempt request over the Stockton cases alleges that Mahony stalled and then canceled a scheduled deposition in April, just one day before a judge halted all proceedings in Northern California molestation cases to make it easier to reach a negotiated settlement.
That stay, which is still in effect, indefinitely postponed Mahony's deposition. Despite the order, plaintiffs' attorneys feel they should still be allowed to depose Mahony.
Lawyers for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles denounced the contempt allegation. They said Mahony was willing to be deposed but the stay on the cases went into effect before both sides could agree on the terms of the questioning.
Attorney Donald Woods Jr. said the plaintiffs' attorneys had already tried the same tactic in Los Angeles Superior Court, but the motion had been rejected. Woods said he would ask the Alameda County judge within a week for sanctions against Manly and attorney Venus Soltan, who works in Manly's law office in Costa Mesa.
Manly countered that his motion to force Mahony to be deposed was not rejected. Instead, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charles McCoy declined to act on it at all, deferring the matter to the coordination judge in Alameda County on July 20.
"It is improper to file the same motion with a different court," Woods said. "Different judge, and he's trying to get a different result."
Woods added that Mahony has given testimony four separate times on the Stockton cases and has nothing more to offer.
"They want to personalize the whole thing as Cardinal Mahony, make him feel uneasy and uncomfortable and make him want to settle the cases," Woods said.
Woods also said he believes the attorneys are using the Stockton cases as a way to ask Mahony about his knowledge of clergy sex abuse cases pending in Los Angeles County.
Those cases are in mediation talks and are the subject of a similar stay that forbids depositions.
Manly said, "I've learned a long time ago that dealing with the Roman Catholic hierarchy is like dealing with the Soviet Union -- trust but verify."
News-Sentinel staff writer Ross Farrow contributed to this report.