The next couple of months promise to be hell for the Diocese of Orange. Lawyers representing victims of pederast priests will depose church leaders as part of the more than 60 civil lawsuits pending against the local Catholic Church. Lawyers vow no one will be spared, be they bishop, deacon or Tom Fuentes.
Wait a minute—Fuentes? The former chairman of the Orange County Republican Party? Yep. Like many of the county's overlords, Fuentes has a direct connection to one of the country's largest priestly sex-abuse scandals. Sources say the following four individuals should expect a call to take the witness stand early next year. Here's a recap of their complicity:
ROGER BAKER. In 2000, Mary Grant, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), asked the Anaheim Police Department to forward tapes of former St. Boniface pastor John Lenihan to county prosecutors as part of a criminal investigation. In the tapes, Lenihan admitted to molesting Grant when she was a 13-year-old during the late 1970s. But the Anaheim P.D., then led by Baker, claimed the evidence was missing. When Grant handed over personal copies of the tapes to Anaheim police, Baker's boys didn't pass them along to the DA until after the criminal statute of limitations had passed.
TOM FUENTES. Before assuming the GOP chair, Fuentes served as the Orange diocese's communications director from 1976 through 1989, a span during which dozens of pedo-priests roamed parish aisles. Fuentes also supervised Father Jerome Henson, whom the Orange diocese took in as a priest in 1983 despite knowledge of Sacramento-area police finding Henson in a graveyard with the legs of a 13-year-old boy wrapped around his face just two years prior. Henson worked directly under Fuentes for five years.
WILLIAM LYON. The mega-developer allowed Monsignor Michael Harris to live in his Lido Isle home after Harris resigned as principal at Santa Margarita High School in 1994 for allegedly molesting students. Shortly after Harris left Santa Margarita, Lyon also helped him start up Caritas, a nonprofit organization that builds low-income housing. Lyon now sits on Caritas' board of directors.
TONY RACKAUCKAS.In early 2001, District Attorney Rackauckas' office told Ryan DiMaria the DA was not interested in filing criminal charges against Harris, who allegedly fellated then-student DiMaria at Santa Margarita in the mid-1990s. A few months later, Orange County Superior Court Judge Jim Gray ordered Harris, the Diocese of Orange and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to publicly apologize to DiMaria and pay $5.2 million in damages.
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