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Former altar boy alleges in suit that L.A. priest molested him

A former altar boy sued the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles on Thursday, alleging that he was sexually abused by a priest in 1987 shortly before the priest fled to his native Mexico to avoid criminal prosecution over other molestation allegations.

The plaintiff, now 32, alleges that when he was 9 or 10, Father Nicholas Aguilar-Rivera molested him repeatedly at a Catholic church near downtown Los Angeles.

The lawsuit asserts that an official with the archdiocese later encouraged Aguilar-Rivera to leave Los Angeles after parents of several children from the parish reported similar abuse to church officials.

The lawsuit did not identify the church or the plaintiff, who also withheld his name during a news conference Thursday outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. His attorney, Anthony DeMarco, cited privacy concerns.

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“I want the church to acknowledge what they did was wrong and to give encouragement to any other victim who is suffering to come forward,” said the plaintiff, who now lives in Victorville.

In a statement, spokeswoman Carolina Guevara said the archdiocese received a report of abuse by Aguilar-Rivera in January 1988 and immediately removed him from service as a priest.

Guevara said the archdiocese had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on its specifics. She did not identify the victim.

“All accused priests have been previously identified by the archdiocese and in various media reports,” Guevara said in the statement. “The only new information today is an alleged new victim, about whom the archdiocese was not informed.”

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Guevara disputed one other allegation made in a previous lawsuit and repeated in Thursday’s complaint -- that Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera had informed Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony about the accusations against Aguilar-Rivera in Mexico before his arrival in Los Angeles.

“The charge of conspiracy has already been demonstrated to be false and without foundation,” Guevara said.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged Aguilar-Rivera in 1988 with 19 counts of felony lewd conduct in alleged incidents involving 10 children.

Most of the alleged molestations occurred at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in the Montecito Heights area north of downtown and at St. Agatha’s Church in South Los Angeles.

Aguilar-Rivera fled before he was charged.

The plaintiff who filed the lawsuit Thursday was not involved in the 1988 criminal case.

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duke.helfand@latimes.com

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