Will Cardinal Mahony Hurt the Cooley Campaign?


For months, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, a moderate Republican seeking the GOP nomination for California Attorney General, has been taking hits from his conservative rivals during a hard-hitting primary race (see the current issue of L.A. Weekly).

Yet Cooley may take even more flak on the campaign trail due to his handling of an eight-year-long investigation of the sex abuse scandal within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

In a memo that was released to the Los Angeles Times yesterday, L.A. County Deputy D.A. William Hodgman writes that a criminal conspiracy case against archdiocese officials such as Cardinal Roger Mahony was looking "more and more remote" -- even though Mahony was routinely criticized for his handling of sexually abusive priests and ended up paying $660 million in 2007 to more than 500 alleged victims.

Hodgman cites the fact that over the past eight years investigators haven't gathered enough evidence and are now facing statute of limitation restrictions.

With the GOP primary for state attorney general taking place on June 8th, the timing of the memo is not ideal -- especially when you consider that federal law enforcement officials are telling Philip Shenon at the Daily Beast that their two-year investigation into Mahony may result with a federal indictment.

Shenon, who reports that the L.A. County D.A.'s Office has assisted with the federal investigation, writes that "prosecutors are

weighing charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury

against the 74-year-old cardinal and his deputies over allegations that

they covered up rampant child sexual abuse within the archdiocese of Los

Angeles."

Cooley has already taken dings from conservative Republican rivals Tom Harman and John Eastman for his handling of California's "Three Strikes" law.

Cooley prefers to only send a convicted felon to prison for 25 years to life on a "third strike" offense if that person has committed a violent or serious felony, while his opponents say it's proof that the L.A. County D.A. is too soft on the crime.

Now the Mahony/Hodgman memo has surfaced, along with the Daily Beast report, showing Cooley has failed to make a case against Mahony after eight years of investigation while the feds may have something happening after two.

Will Harman and Eastman use these things against Cooley in some way? Or will they keep relatively mum, not wanting to alienate conservative Catholic voters, many of whom vote during the primaries?

With Harman running a close second to Cooley, this late-breaking news could be a game-changer.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.


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