The Times and reporters Scott Glover and Jack Leonard say, based on "two law enforcement sources familiar with the case," that Cardinal Roger Mahony is under federal grand jury investigation in connection with his response to allegations of molestation by priests in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien is personally involved in the case, the story says.
The probe...is aimed at determining whether Mahony, and possibly other church leaders, committed "honest services fraud" by failing to adequately deal with priests accused of sexually abusing children, said the sources, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
One federal law enforcement source said such a prosecution could be brought under a federal statute that makes it illegal to "scheme . . . to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services."
In this case, the victims would be parishioners who relied on Mahony and other church leaders to keep their children safe from predatory priests, the source said. To convict on such a charge, prosecutors would have to prove that Mahony used the U.S. mail or some form of electronic communication in committing the alleged fraud, the source said.
O'Brien declined to comment.
Mahony's attorney, J. Michael Hennigan, confirmed that federal prosecutors have contacted the archdiocese and requested "information about a number of individual priests, at least two of whom are deceased." He said he was also aware that some witnesses had testified before the panel.
But Hennigan said he has been informed that Mahony is not a target of the inquiry.
"We have been and will continue to be fully cooperative with the investigation," Hennigan said.
"Creative lawyering," says Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor, explaining the theory that prosecutors are pursuing is one usually reserved for cases against corporate executives accused of wrongdoing.
* Got there first: The Wall Street Journal says its story by John R. Emshwiller went up about half an hour earlier than the Times story.