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  Home :: 2006 December :: Defrocked LA priest to face new molest charges, prosecutors say

Investigators have identified a second man whoallegedly was molested by defrocked priest Michael Stephen Baker andadditional charges will be filed this week, a prosecutor said in courtTuesday.

A date to set a preliminary hearing for Baker was postponed until Dec. 20, when Baker also will be arraigned on the new charges.

A preliminary hearing is where a judge decides whether there is enough evidence for Baker to stand trial.

Baker, 58, has pleaded not guilty to eightacts of oral copulation involving a boy over a period ending in 1995while the priest was living at a Pico Rivera rectory. Prosecutorscontend he molested the boy for more than a decade, beginning when hewas 7.

Baker was arrested in January when he returnedfrom a vacation in Thailand. He could face six years in state prison ifconvicted.

"We conducted a full law enforcementinvestigation" and determined that a second victim was involved, LosAngeles County Deputy District Attorney Marc Beaart told Superior CourtJudge James Bianco.

Outside court, Beaart declined to provide details of the case but said the alleged victim "didn't come forward" voluntarily.

Defense attorney Donald H. Steier said he wastold the alleged molestation occurred in the 1990s when the man was ateenager but he did not have other details.

The new allegations were not surprising, he said.

"We know that they've been looking other potential claimants" since May, he said.

Steier said he did not expect any more alleged victims to be added to the case.

In court, Baker said little except to agree tothe postponement. The ex-priest had long white hair and a beard that hehad grown in jail since his arrest, his attorney said. His hands wereshackled and he wore an orange jumpsuit indicating that he wassegregated from the rest of the inmates.

As an accused sex offender, he is isolated because he might face violence from other inmates, his lawyer said.

"He seems to be doing fine," he said of Baker but added: "Nobody likes to be in jail, and these are terrible charges."

Baker's case is the latest involvingallegations of clergy abuse that have tarnished the reputation of theLos Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese, the nation's largest. On Dec.1, the archdiocese said it would pay $60 million to settle 45 lawsuitsby people who claimed they were abused by priests, but as many as 485suits are still pending.

The settlement covers all of the casesinvolving molestations that occurred since Mahony was named head of thediocese in 1985, including claims related to Baker.

Twenty years ago this month, Baker told Mahonythat he had molested children from 1978 to 1985 but instead ofnotifying police, Baker was sent to a New Mexico facility that treatedpriests for sex abuse problems, the archdiocese has said.

In the years that followed, Baker was assignedto nine different parishes within the archdiocese. He was barred fromhaving individual contact with children but violated those restrictionsthree times, according to church personnel file summaries that thearchdiocese has released.

In 2002, Mahony sent a letter to priestsapologizing for mishandling Baker's case. He has acknowledged leaving16 priests in the ministry after receiving complaints about theirbehavior with children.

Six years ago, two brothers alleged that Bakermolested them for a decade, beginning when they were 5 and 7. Baker wasremoved from the ministry and eventually the archdiocese.

In 2003, prosecutors charged Baker with 34counts of molestation on six victims, but those charges were dismissedbecause of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld a statute oflimitations on old sex abuse charges. Cases dating before 1988 weredismissed.


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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia