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Priest repeatedly accused of child abuse left church, took LA school job

Photo by superterrific/dana byerly via Flickr Creative Commons

A former priest and suspected child molester who left the Los Angeles Archdiocese to work for the LA Unified School District has reportedly been dismissed from his new job. 

Ordained in 1972, Joseph Piña, resigned on March 12, 1998 after repeated complaints of improper sexual relationships with teenagers and adults at different parishes--in one case after he'd been there only one month, according to his personnel file, released by the church last week in connection with a class action lawsuit.

The church twice sent Piña to treatment. The first time to a six month program in 1990. A psychological evaluation in 1993 said Piña likely suffered from a sexual compulsion.

The psychologist was concerned that Piña carefully planned liaisons with a teenaged girl then minimized his culpability. The psychologist said the former priest advised the Archdiocese to "take appropriate measures and precautions to insure that he is not in a setting where he can victimize others."

He went on to serve at two other parishes. Complaints persisted. A church memorandum from 1998 (names of the author and the recipient have been redacted) reads:

"On April 1, we agreed to place Father Piña in a halfway house with other sex offenders, that his comings and goings be monitored, that his daily attendance at meetings be corroborated and that he would begin a program of vocational rehabilitation at Long Beach City College." 

In a letter to parishioners when he resigned, Piña said he was "not being fully honest with you" and apologized for "overstepping boundaries."

LA Sheriff's Department had investigated allegations that he'd sexually abused a 14-year-old girl in the 1970s, according to a 2004 memo in his personnel file. The Ventura County grand jury was also investigating him. Results of those investigations were unknown Sunday evening.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy told the L.A.Times that Piña did not work with children in his job at the nation's second-largest school system.  

According to the newspaper, Piña was not accused of any wrongdoing during his time at LAUSD. He was laid off from his full-time district job last year, but returned to work occasionally on a temporary basis to organize events, they report. 

Calls and emails to LAUSD officials were not immediately returned.

With contributions by KPCC Wire Services

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