LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday against Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera, who had been accused of conspiring with Roman Catholic officials in the United States to transfer a pedophile priest between the two countries.
The judge found Rivera could not be held accountable in a U.S. court because there was not enough evidence against him, said Mike Finnegan, the plaintiff's attorney.
"It was a legal technicality," he said. "It didn't reach any of the merits of the case and it didn't get to the key issues in the case, which is Cardinal Rivera's complicity in sending (the priest) to the United States as a child molester."
Rivera's spokesman, Hugo Valdemar, told The Associated Press in Mexico City that the cardinal was "greatly satisfied" by the judge's "careful, fair decision."
"We are happy and satisfied that the judge confirmed what we have always said: This isn't a case to be judged in the United States," he said. "Mr. Joaquin has every right to present a complaint in Mexico."
Joaquin Aguilar Mendez, 26, filed the lawsuit alleging that Rivera, who was then a bishop in Puebla state, knew that the priest had molested children when he sent him to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The priest, Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, is no relation to the cardinal.
While it is The Associated Press' policy not to identify people who allege sexual abuse, Mendez chose to come forward with his story.
Rivera has said he was unaware of molestation allegations against the priest.
The judge's ruling also dismisses claims against the Mexican Diocese of Tehuacan, where the cardinal was bishop at the time he transferred the priest.
In a declaration filed in February, the cardinal said he sent a letter to Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony in 1987 warning him that Nicolas Aguilar Rivera had "homosexual problems." A spokesman for the Los Angeles archdiocese has said the U.S. cardinal never received the letter.
The priest fled to Mexico after less than a year in Los Angeles after he was accused of sexual abuse in Los Angeles and before police could begin an investigation. He has since been charged in California with 19 felony counts of committing lewd acts on a child.
The priest continued to serve in Mexico. The lawsuit Mendez filed against him about a year ago alleges that he raped the boy at the rectory when he was about 12 years old. The boy was told by the priest to keep quiet or his siblings would suffer the same abuse, according to the lawsuit.
The priest's whereabouts are currently unknown, Finnegan said.
Finnegan said he planned to pursue a lawsuit in Mexican courts.
"This definitely doesn't end our pursuit of him," he said. "The real tragic and sad part of this case is that Cardinal Rivera is not facing up to his responsibility and answering up to what he did in this case."
Mahony, the Los Angeles cardinal, settled his portion of the lawsuit in July when the archdiocese agreed to pay more than 500 alleged victims of sex abuse $660 million (euro466 million), archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said.
"We maintain that it was a ridiculous charge of conspiracy. The decision doesn't change our opinion that this was an absolutely spurious lawsuit," Tamberg said.