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Police look for leads in Los Angeles priest abuse files

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles police are combing through some 12,000 pages of priest abuse records released last week by the city's Catholic archdiocese to determine whether to open any new criminal investigations, authorities said on Tuesday.

Many of the cases detailed in the more 120 personnel files were already known to law enforcement, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said, and others could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run out.

But detectives wanted to make sure no leads had been missed in documents made public by the archdiocese as part of a 2007 civil court settlement, officer Bruce Borihanh said.

"Now that the list is available we want to be proactive and look at that list," Borihanh said. He said he was not aware of any specific case that investigators were focused on and that it was possible no new leads would be discovered.

The probe marks the latest development following Thursday's release of the files, which has already led Archbishop Jose Gomez to strip his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, of all public and administrative duties.

Mahoney's former top aide, Thomas Curry, also stepped down as bishop of Santa Barbara. Both men had been linked to efforts to conceal the abuse.

In further fallout, the Los Angeles Unified School District severed its ties on Monday with a priest who, the files show, was once accused of molesting a teenage girl.

Father Joseph Pina, 66, took a job working for the school district in 2002, several years after he resigned as a pastor and was placed on inactive leave by the church. An attorney for Pina has declined to comment to Reuters on the matter.

The Los Angeles archdiocese, which serves 4 million Catholics, reached a $660 million civil settlement in 2007 with more than 500 victims of child molestation in the biggest such agreement of its kind in the nation.

Mahony at the time called the abuse "a terrible sin and crime."

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)

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