Victims’ Mother Testifies at Priest’s Trial

Times Staff Writer

A mother testified Monday that she once considered Father Michael Wempe her friend as well as her priest, but now she loathes him for molesting at least two of her sons.

Margaret Percival, 64, of Thousand Oaks put her head down and wept when Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Todd Hicks asked how she felt about her former confessor. “I despise him for what he has done to my children,” she testified in the third week of the retired priest’s molestation trial.

Wempe, 66, has admitted abusing 13 boys, including Percival’s two older sons, but denies fondling and orally copulating their younger brother in the 1990s. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the other cases were too old to prosecute.

Wempe’s lawyer, Leonard Levine, says Wempe’s accuser is lying to avenge his brothers. He contends Wempe quit molesting after Cardinal Roger M. Mahony sent him to a treatment center for pedophile priests in 1986. Mahony then assigned Wempe to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where his current accuser, identified in court as Jayson B., says he was molested in the priest’s car and office.


Earlier Monday, Jayson’s older brother, identified in court as Lee B., testified that he was relieved when Jayson B. told him in 2002 that he hadn’t spent much time with Wempe.

Lee B. said he didn’t press the issue because, at the time, “I thought I was the only one.” Later, after he learned of Wempe’s other victims, he didn’t question his brother again because he was “afraid of the answer,” he said.

“I’m his big brother,” he testified, weeping as he spoke. “I was supposed to be protecting him.”

Lee B. said he was “devastated” by the court ruling that allowed Wempe to walk out of jail a free man, but he denied putting his brother up to fabricating accusations against the priest.