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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release
Giving Voice to Victims

 

For immediate release:
February 23, 2005

For more information:
Mary Grant SNAP Western Regional Director (626) 419-2930
Steven Sanchez SNAP Los Angeles Director (818) 262-6540

Sex Abuse Group Urges Investigation Of CA Judge Accused Of Molestation

They Suspect He Treated Other Victims Harshly in His Court

SNAP Asks Supervising Judge To Urge Victims And Witnesses To Contact Police

Judge Who Killed Himself Handled At Least Two “Troubling Cases” Involving Possible Bias

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is asking the supervising judge of Los Angeles Superior Court to investigate another judge under his supervision who committed suicide almost two weeks ago after he was accused of molesting a child.

Leaders of SNAP, Survivor Network of those Abused by Priest, have written Judge William MacLaughlin saying they are very troubled by the recent molestation allegation against Judge Lloyd Jeffrey Wiatt. Wiatt took his own life on Thursday, February 10th after detectives contacted him about an allegation that he had molested a child. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/los_angeles_metro/la-me-judge12feb12,1,3661125.story?coll=la-commun-los_angeles_metro

SNAP urged MacLaughlin to review and investigate the allegation and all sex abuse and juvenile cases Wiatt handled.

“If Wiatt was a molester himself, how could he possibly treat molestation victims with fairness?” asked Mary Grant of Long Beach, SNAP’s Western Regional Director. “Citizens and taxpayers need to know whether the victims of sex crimes were treated impartially by Wiatt or not.”

“In the interest of justice and protecting children, we implore you (MacLaughlin) to publicly reach out to victims of sexual abuse and launch a thorough ongoing investigation into this allegation against Wiatt,” SNAP’s letter says. They also want MacLaughlin to look into whether Wiatt misused “his power and discretion in any case he presided over.”

SNAP points out two specific troubling cases Wiatt handled:

- a high profile murder case where Wiatt was found to have abused his discretion and also barred the alleged victim’s mother from the court house. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/los_angeles_metro/la-me-judge12feb12,1,3661125.story?coll=la-commun-los_angeles_metro

- a clergy sex abuse case brought against the Los Angeles Archdiocese by a former nun, Sylvia Arambulo, allegedly raped by a priest in the Philippines and where Wiatt states in his ruling, "It appears that this lawsuit was filed to obtain publicity and not for any proper purpose," and ordered her attorney, George S. Goldberg of Los Angeles, to pay $14,405 in sanctions. http://www.the-signal.com/News/ViewStory.asp?storyID=6481, http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=46&aid=12254

“I hope that if there are other alleged victims who have been abused by Judge Wiatt, or have been shamed or punished by him for seeking justice in his court, they will feel safer now and come forward knowing that they are not alone”, said Arambulo.

SNAP leaders believe that the recent child molestation allegation against Wiatt and his past insensitive treatment to victims of sex crimes are warning signs that MacLaughlin should not ignore. SNAP fears Wiatt’s inappropriate public statement about an alleged rape victim and her case against the Los Angeles Archdiocese may keep other victims of abused trapped in shame and silence.

A copy of SNAP’s letter sent via Fax is below.

February 23, 2005

Dear Judge MacLaughlin:

We the members of SNAP, The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are very troubled that one of the judges under your supervision, Superior Court Judge Lloyd Jeffrey Wiatt, committed suicide almost two weeks ago after detectives contacted him about an allegation that he had molested a child. In the interest of justice and protecting children, we implore you to publicly reach out to victims of sexual abuse and launch a thorough ongoing investigation into this allegation and the possibility of other alleged victims of abuse by Judge Wiatt or abuse of discretion in any case he presided over in the State of California.

As you should know, victims of sexual abuse often suffer for years in secrecy, with overwhelming feelings of guilt, blame and shame. When the abuser is a trusted authority figure in the community, it is all the more difficult for victims to report the crimes to police. Perpetrators often tell their victims that no one will believe them because they are well connected with those who have the power to stop the abuse, especially those with authority in the law enforcement or criminal justice system.

Recognizing the tremendous damage done to victims of sexual abuse, California legislators made changes in both civil and criminal laws allowing more time for victims to expose their abusers, seek long overdue justice in the courts and protect kids from potential future harm. Thanks to these changes, hundreds of civil sex abuse cases have been filed in this state exposing admitted, known and alleged child molesters, as well as trusted officials of institutions who knowingly aided and abetted abusers, and shielded them from prosecution.

The Catholic Church is one of the horrific examples in which trusted officials abused their positions of trust and authority by their gross mishandling of abuse reports. Not only did church officials aid and abet known and suspected molesters, but they continued to needlessly place children and vulnerable people at risk of abuse, and created a public safety crisis by knowingly failing to report sex crimes to criminal authorities.

It is no secret that Cardinal Roger Mahony is one these trusted officials who has protected child molesters, refuses to turn over accused priests' personnel files to prosecutors, and admittedly refuses to release the names of at least 33 accused abusers who, we fear, may be working in parishes and schools today.

As criminal as we in SNAP think Mahony’s and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’s actions are, we also believe it would be a horrific re-victimization and betrayal to be denied justice in the judicial system by known and suspected abusers or criminal enablers who have the authority to hold sex criminals accountable.

Reportedly, In December 2002, Judge Wiatt dismissed a former nun's sexual abuse lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles because there wasn't enough evidence to prove the church conspired to cover up an alleged rape by a Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Ernesto Villaroya. Other news reports state the case was dismissed because the statute of limitations expired. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/953964/posts Judge Wiatt went on by stating in his four-page ruling, "It appears that this lawsuit was filed to obtain publicity and not for any proper purpose," and ordered her attorney George S. Goldberg of Los Angeles to pay $14,405 in sanctions. We suspect the evidence in this case was never heard at all. Worse, we fear that Judge Wiatt’s incredibly insensitive statement as to why he believed the case was filed by the alleged rape victim, Sylvia Arambulo, may have been designed to silence Arambulo and intimidate and keep other alleged victims of rape trapped in shame and silence. We know that the Statute of Limitations has nothing to do with whether the crime occurred or not and this fact is what inspired recent changes in the laws of California. http://www.the-signal.com/News/ViewStory.asp?storyID=6481, http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=46&aid=12254

In 1999, during the trial of Sylmar widow Jeanie Adair--who was accused of bludgeoning her husband, Robert, to death with a baseball bat for insurance money--Judge Wiatt's outspoken manner was on display, lending doubt about his impartiality or judicial temperament. Marsh Goldstein, the prosecutor in the case, who has since retired, "appearing before him in the courtroom was the worst experience in my professional life." After a jury acquitted Adair, Judge Wiatt declared her "factually innocent," an unusual ruling that would have erased records of her arrest and criminal trial. But state appellate judges reversed the ruling in 2001, finding that Judge Wiatt abused his discretion. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/los_angeles_metro/la-me-judge12feb12,1,3661125.story?coll=la-commun-los_angeles_metro

In light of these truths, we specifically urge you to:

-review and investigate all sex abuse and juvenile cases (both civil and criminal) that Wiatt presided over, to determine if any alleged victims were denied their day in court, and if any other abuse occurred under his jurisdictional authority.

-send a mailing to all attorneys and persons who had sex abuse cases and juvenile cases where Judge Wiatt was presiding, and ask if they or their witnesses were hurt in anyway by Wiatt.

-publicly reach out through the secular news media and make strong personal appeals urging victims or witnesses who know of abuse or suspect it (no matter how uncertain they may be or no matter when the abuse may have occurred) to contact criminal authorities and assist in determining Judge Wiatt’s guilt or innocence.

The fact that this allegedly dangerous man worked in your courts, should be of grave concern to you and weigh heavily on your conscience, knowing that you have a duty to safeguard the public from any known or suspected molesters--especially if they presided over sex abuse and juvenile court cases--and reassure victims and witnesses to feel safe in coming forward. We urge you again to take prompt steps now to reach out to the victims with actions of healing, prevention and openness.

As a support group of men and women victimized by clergy, we are deeply concerned about the protection of children and vulnerable adults. We respectfully request your assistance in this matter and welcome an opportunity to speak with you about it in greater detail.

We look forward to your response,

Mary Grant SNAP Western Regional Director (626) 419-2930 or mgrantsnap@earthlink.net

Steven Sanchez SNAP Los Angeles Director (818) 262-6540 or glendalesnap@yahoo.com

cc: William W. Hodgman, Head Deputy, LA Sex Crimes Division



Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org
 


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