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LAUSD looking into how priest accused of molestation was hired

February 4, 2013 |  7:52 am

A former priest and suspected child molester who left the Los Angeles Archdiocese for L.A. Unified schools will no longer be employed by the district, Supt. John Deasy said.

The former clergyman, Joseph Pina, did not work with children in his school district job, Deasy said.

Pina's name emerged in documents released by the archdiocese to comply with a court order. His case was one of many in which church officials failed to take action to protect child victims and in which first consideration was given to helping the offending priests rather than their victims, according to the documentation.

A just-released, internal 1993 psychological evaluation states that Pina "remains a serious risk for acting out." The evaluation recounts how Pina was attracted to a victim, an eighth-grade girl, when he saw her in a costume.

"She dressed as Snow White. ... I had a crush on Snow White, so I started to open myself up to her," he told the psychologist. "I felt like I fell in love with her. I got sexually involved with her, but never intercourse. She was about 17 when we got involved sexually, and it continued until she was about 19."

Pina, 66, was laid off from his full-time district job last year, but returned to work episodically to organize events. One event he may have helped organize was a ribbon-cutting Saturday for a new education facility. School district officials over the weekend, however, could not confirm that. Pina did not attend the event, and the district could not confirm payment for any help he may have provided.

In a report sent to a top aide to then-L.A. Archbishop Roger M. Mahony, the psychologist expressed concern that the abuse was never reported to police officials.

Deasy said the district is looking into the matter of Pina's hiring.

"I find it troubling," he said of the disclosures about Pina. "And I also want to understand what knowledge that we had of any background problems when hiring him, and I don't yet know that."

Pina's evaluation also includes a recommendation "to take appropriate measures and precautions to [ensure] that he is not in a setting where he can victimize others." Pina continued to work as a pastor as late as March 1998.

It may have been Pina who first alerted district officials that his name appeared in disclosed documents, Deasy said. Pina called a senior administrator in the facilities division. So far, no untoward issues have emerged regarding Pina's work for L.A. Unified.

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-- Howard Blume

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