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Former L.A. priest gets 3 years in prison in molestation case

January 30, 2009 | 11:11 am

George Miller

A former Los Angeles priest at the center of Cardinal Roger Mahony’s unsuccessful attempts to keep archdiocese personnel files from county prosecutors was sentenced today to three years in prison for molesting a young boy two decades ago.

George Miller, 70, pleaded guilty in December to molesting the child between 1988 and 1989 and admitted sexually abusing at least three other boys after the archdiocese received its first complaint in 1977 about Miller molesting a child. "My family trusted you to teach me the ways of the Lord, not the ways of hell," one of the victims, now in his 30s, told Miller in a trembling voice in a San Fernando courtroom.

Miller, gray-haired and spectacled, sat silently with his fist covering his mouth. A handful of supporters sat behind him in the courtroom audience.

After the hearing, Miller's attorney said his client had a different version of what happened but decided not to contest the charges.

The district attorney’s office initially charged Miller in 2002 with molesting several boys. But the charges were dismissed the next year, along with more than a dozen other cases against priests or former priests, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that extended the statute of limitations for decades-old sexual abuse.

Lamepriest02_keattunc_6Prosecutors were able to pursue a new criminal case against Miller when an additional victim came forward. Authorities said Miller befriended the victim’s mother when the boy was 5 years old and the priest was assigned to Guardian Angel Church in Pacoima.

An attorney for the victims said Miller was placed on leave in 1996 after he was accused a third time of molestation. Church officials said he never returned to the ministry and was reduced to lay status by the pope in 2005.

Miller was among the priests whose personnel files were the subject of a vigorous legal battle when Mahony fought against turning them over to the Los Angeles County grand jury.

Me_keatuznc Archdiocese officials argued that disclosure would violate priest-bishop communications and priests’ privacy rights. They yielded when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their arguments.

A federal grand jury is now investigating Mahony's response to allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

-- Jack Leonard

Top photo: George Miller is led away by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy after he was sentenced to three years in prison by Judge Cynthia Ulfig in U.S. Superior Court in San Fernando.

Middle photo: One of the victims in the case (back to camera) and his aunt, Joan Curtis, speak to the media after Miller's sentencing.

Bottom photo: Miller, left, confers with his attorney, Steven Cron.

Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times