Former priest Wempe sentenced to three years for molestation

May 10, 2006
Santa Paula News

A former Santa Paula priest was sentenced to three years in state prison, although the actual time served by Michael Wempe will be much shorter.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesA former Santa Paula priest was sentenced to three years in state prison, although the actual time served by Michael Wempe will be much shorter.Wempe, 66, agreed not to appeal or seek a new trial in an agreement with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, which was weighing whether or not to retry Wempe on four counts that the jury deadlocked on.Wempe, who served as Associate Pastor at St. Sebastian Church in the 1980s, was found guilty in February on one count of oral copulation of a child under 16.Although given the maximum sentence Wempe has already served about 600 days so he will be incarcerated for about a year or a shorter period of time for good behavior. If Wempe had been convicted on the remaining charges he would have faced a 16-year state prison sentence.Wempe’s trial was the first major prosecution stemming from the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s sex abuse scandal. Settlement talks are ongoing with more than 560 men and women who charge that the Los Angeles Archdiocese did not protect them from abuse by priests.Wempe was first charged in June 2003 with 42 counts of child sexual molestation that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, but the case was later dismissed after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s state law extending the statute of limitations was unconstitutional.Wempe was on trial for molesting the younger brother of two previous victims in the 1990s, a time period within the statue of limitations.
His attorney claimed that the alleged victim was only claiming to being molested by Wempe to obtain some justice for his brothers that Wempe had admitted sexually abusing.Wempe did admit to molesting 13 victims and during his trial some testified that they were targeted because they craved a father figure or had dysfunctional families.At one point, Wempe’s actions at St. Sebastian Church in Santa Paula were the focus of trial testimony.According to testimony from past victims Wempe would continue relationships even as he was moved from church to church.In 1984, Wempe was moved to St. Sebastian and befriended two brothers, fatherless boys: he even had them spend the night at the rectory until he was confronted in 1987 by now retired Father James Rothe.According to church records, Father Rothe wrote to the archdiocese’s vicar of the clergy, accusing Wempe of “boundary violations,” defined by the church as “indiscreet conduct with young boys without any evidence of molestation.”The complaint prompted moving Wempe to a New Mexico treatment center where he was treated for six months. Cardinal Roger Mahony later reassigned him to Cedars-Sinai Hospital where the molestations he was convicted of occurred.Between 1969 and 1987 Ventura County churches Wempe served other than St. Sebastian were Rosa of Lima in Simi Valley, St. Jude in Westlake Village and Sacred Heart in Ventura.

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.