July 24, 2007 / 10:16 PM / 12 years ago

Ex-L.A. priest charged with sexually abusing boy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Just over a week after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles reached a record $660 million deal to settle clergy abuse cases, a former priest was arrested on Tuesday on charges of molesting a young boy.

George Miller, who served in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Pacoima, is the first current or former Catholic priest to be charged with sex abuse in the city since the nation’s largest Roman Catholic diocese finalized the settlement with 508 plaintiffs on July 16.

That settlement covered only civil cases pending against the church and does not affect criminal cases.

Miller, who is 69 and left active ministry in 1996, was taken into custody at his home in California on a felony complaint charging him with three counts of committing lewd acts on a child and three counts of sodomy on a minor.

He is accused of sexually abusing a young boy from 1988 to 1991, starting when the alleged victim was 5 years old. Miller was being held on $600,000 bail and was due in court as early as Wednesday for an arraignment on the charges. The victim was not named.

“As promised, investigations are ongoing into alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said. “As evidence is developed to sustain criminal filings, we will do so.”

Miller had been assigned to the Guardian Angel Church in Pacoima when he met the 5-year-old boy, befriended his mother and became a frequent guest in the family’s home. He is accused of molesting the boy while taking him on overnight trips.

In 2002, Miller was charged with 24 counts of sex crimes against minors, including the boy’s older brother.

That case was dismissed the following year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an extension of California’s statute of limitations on sex crimes against children was unconstitutional. The current case is within the statue of limitations.

The settlement reached last week after 4-1/2 years of negotiations came on the eve of the first trial involving sex abuse cases was due to begin. Victims’ attorneys would have called Cardinal Roger Mahony to testify about the church hierarchy’s alleged protection of abusive priests.

The church, in which priests take a vow of celibacy, has faced abuse allegations worldwide over the past decade. Victims have charged that church leaders often knew of the abuse but did not do enough to stop it.

The Los Angeles settlement dwarfs other landmark payouts. The Archdiocese of Boston, where the U.S. scandal erupted in 2002, reached a 2003 deal for 550 people worth $85 million.

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