Attorney Says Convicted Ex-Priest Beaten in Lancaster Prison Cell

ABC 30 [California]
July 28, 2006

A former Roman Catholic priest sentenced to state prison for molesting a young boy was recently beaten up by another inmate, an attorney for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Friday.

Michael Wempe was sentenced in May to three years in prison after a jury found him guilty of a single count of molestation. Wempe, 66, will probably spend less than a year in prison after credit for time served, prison work and good behavior.

Donald Steier, an attorney who represents priests accused of sexual abuse, said Friday that Wempe's sister told him of the assault in a recent telephone conversation.

"I've spoken to his sister who advised me that he had been beaten up and it was done by a cellmate and they removed the cellmate and Wempe was fearful for his life," Steier said. "We don't know anything more than that."

Steier said he did not believe Wempe was seriously hurt in the attack.

Calls to Leonard Levine, the attorney who represented Wempe at trial, and another archdiocese attorney were not immediately returned Friday.

A spokeswoman for the California State Prison in Lancaster, where Wempe is serving his sentence, did not immediately return calls.

Wempe's lawyers acknowledged that the priest molested 13 boys in the 1970s and 1980s, but said he went into church-ordered treatment and returned a changed man, never molesting after that.

Wempe was charged with 42 counts of child molestation in 2003, and even spent a year in jail awaiting trial. However, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the statute of limitations on the crimes and his case was dismissed.

He is currently serving time for molesting an 11-year-old boy who is the youngest brother of two of Wempe's other alleged victims. The statute of limitations in that case, which dates to the 1990s, had not expired.


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