Pedophile priest could be held past end of sentence

Times Staff Writer

A pedophile priest could be kept in prison despite completing his sentence if he is found to be a sexually violent predator, prison officials said Wednesday.

Michael Edwin Wempe, 67, was convicted and sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison last year for molesting a boy in Los Angeles.

But Wempe spent 600 days in custody awaiting trial, and had been due for release Jan. 6. His release was delayed for 45 days to allow for an evaluation, according to Bill Sessa, a spokesman for state corrections officials.


Wempe’s lawyer, Leonard Levine, said his client should not face additional punishment.

Wempe has admitted to sexually abusing 13 boys during his 36-year career in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, but was convicted for molesting a single boy because the other alleged crimes were too old.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony sent Wempe to therapy in 1987 after questions arose about his behavior, but allowed him to remain a priest until 2002. The church “has expressed remorse and asked for forgiveness for mistakes it made in dealing with Father Wempe,” archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg has said. Wempe’s trial comes as lawyers ready dozens of civil cases scheduled for trial this spring in which victims allege that the archdiocese failed to protect them from sexual predators.

After serving his time, Wempe planned to return to his condominium in Seal Beach, where he cares for his aging mother, according to a report prepared last year by state officials.