LOS ANGELES — A former Catholic priest pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of lewd acts on four boys at two parishes, in Palmdale and Redondo Beach, between the mid-1990s and 2001.
Christopher John Cunningham, 58, was charged April 2 with a dozen felony counts of lewd acts on a child under the age of 14, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Cunningham was an associate pastor at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Palmdale and worked at Saint Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach at the time of the alleged crimes.
The alleged victims include an 11-year-old boy who was allegedly sexually assaulted on two occasions between November 1995 and September 1997 and a boy, whose age was unavailable, who was allegedly abused at his home some time between June 1996 and June 1998, while Cunningham was an associate pastor at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Palmdale.
Prosecutors also allege that Cunningham victimized a 12-year-old boy who was allegedly sexually abused on two occasions between July 1998 and January 2001 and a 10-year-old boy who was allegedly sexually abused multiple times while Cunningham was at Saint Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church.
“The victims were innocent children who have spent most of their lives with the trauma caused by the abuse alleged in this case,” District Attorney George Gascón said in an April 14 statement announcing the charges. “My office is committed to holding accountable anyone who abuses and takes advantage of our children, especially when they hold a position of trust.”
Cunningham was ordered to remain jailed on $2.2 million bail despite a defense request that he be released on his own recognizance.
He is due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom May 12 for a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to allow the case to proceed to trial.