DOWNEY, Calif. (AP) -- Two former Roman Catholic priests were charged with molesting children and an arrest warrant was issued for a third former priest who is apparently outside the country.
Michael Baker, 54, who was moved from parish to parish after admitting to Cardinal Roger Mahony that he molested boys, was charged with 29 counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, prosecutors said Thursday.
Baker was one of four former priests targeted for arrest this week, marking the first criminal cases in Southern California since the nationwide sex abuse scandal erupted in January.
Also charged Thursday was Carlos Rene Rodriguez, 46, a former priest suspected of molesting a 12-year-old altar boy over a two-year period ending in 1987. He pleaded innocent to eight counts of lewd acts upon a child at a hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Bail was set at $400,000.
"No profession or occupation is immune from civil authority and the operation of the criminal justice system," Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said.
Los Angeles police also said an arrest warrant has been issued for former priest George Rucker. Authorities allege Rucker, who had been assigned to three parishes in the Los Angeles area, molested 16 women in Los Angeles County from 1947 to 1979.
Rucker, 82, was removed by the archdiocese in April. His attorney told prosecutors he is traveling outside the country. "He is not a fugitive, he is just on a holiday," said Donald Steier, who represents Rucker.
Baker has been charged with 13 counts of lewd acts upon a child under 14, and 16 counts of oral copulation with a minor, prosecutors said. He appeared in court Thursday but his arraignment was postponed until Oct. 17.
He also had been accused of sexual misconduct by two brothers who are now adults and live in Arizona. They previously reached a $1.3 million out-of-court settlement with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Many of the alleged crimes occurred at the rectory of St. Paul of God Church in La Mirada, authorities said. In 1986, Baker told Mahony that he had molested young boys and was reassigned to several parishes after attending a treatment center for pedophile priests.
Baker retired from the priesthood in 2000. Mahony has since issued a public apology for allowing him to remain in the ministry after admitting his abuse.
On Tuesday, authorities in neighboring Orange County arrested a former priest after he allegedly confessed to an undercover sheriff's deputy posing as the daughter he is accused of fathering three decades ago.
Gerald John Plesetz, 59, was arrested at his home on suspicion of molesting a girl.
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