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Encino priest won’t be charged with sexual assault, but career in ministry is over

The priest at an Encino parish who was placed on leave after allegations of sexually abusing minors will not be charged with crimes related to those six accusers, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Friday, Dec. 7.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles in January placed Father Juan Cano, an associate pastor at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, on administrative leave in January after reports of “inappropriate contact” involving “several females” in the parish. The Los Angeles Police Department and an archdiocese internal review board investigated the allegations.

Then Thursday, Cano was included in an updated list of 54 priests accused of sexual abuse of minors since 2008 that the archdiocese released.

But Friday, the District Attorney’s Office released documents explaining why Cano would not be charged in each of six cases. The accuser was victimized while Cano served at Our Lady of Grace in five instances; the sixth accuser was a parishioner at St. James Parish in Redondo Beach, where Cano was a visiting priest.

Although Cano will not be charged in these cases and new accusers could come forward, the Catholic Church is removing Cano from the ministry, said Adrian Marquez, the archdiocese’s director of media relations. The process will go through the Vatican. Cano has no right of appeal, she said.

“It’s not his choice. He is not going to be allowed to be a priest anymore,” Marquez said.

One accuser said Cano inappropriately touched her several times when she was a student and altar server; there was insufficient evidence to prosecute a felony or misdemeanor, the document said. A second accuser said Cano touched her inappropriately; the DA declined to prosecute when the accuser said she would not testify.

A third accuser said she and Cano befriended each other and he inappropriately touched her; the DA stated that it could not prove a crime had occurred. A fourth accuser said Cano committed two crimes against her; the DA said it could not prove that a crime happened in one instance and that the statute of limitations had expired in another.

A fifth accuser said Cano inappropriately touched her twice; the DA said it couldn’t prove that a crime occurred. The sixth accuser said she was a victim of lewd acts and sexual battery; the DA said the statute of limitations had run out on both crimes.

Our Lady of Grace was the first parish assignment for Cano, 35, the archdiocese said. The native of Chihuahua, Mexico, said in an interview with the archdiocese published on Facebook that he decided to become a priest after a “miracle” cured a tumor in his head that he was born with.

“I look forward to sharing the journey of faith with my family, friends and parishioners as I say Mass, give absolution, and anoint the sick — being a symbol of hope, mercy, joy and love to those whom I will be walking with and serving as a priest,” Cano said in the interview.

The archdiocese asked that anyone with information on the case to call LAPD Detective Rose Gaeta at 213-486-0580 or the Archdiocesan Office of Victims Assistance Ministry at 213-637-7650.

Source: Orange County Register

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