LOS ANGELES -- The nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese has agreed to pay $720 million to clergy abuse victims over the past decade and released internal files that showed Cardinal Roger Mahony shielded priests and ordered a surrogate to withhold evidence from police, yet Mahony and other archdiocese leaders are unlikely to face criminal charges.

With the final $13 million settlement of existing old cases announced Wednesday, Mahony has emerged from the scandal with his reputation tarnished, but his place in the church intact -- even after being publicly rebuked by his successor for internal church files showing that he and others worked to protect priests, keep parishioners in the dark and defend the church's image.

By settling the cases, the archdiocese avoids a trial in which Mahony would have been publicly questioned under oath about what plaintiffs' lawyers said was an attempt to thwart a Los Angeles police investigation.

During a deposition unsealed Wednesday, Mahony acknowledged he told an underling not to give police a list of altar boys who had worked with the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera. He testified he wasn't trying to hinder police, but didn't want the boys to be scarred by the investigation and that he felt the altar boys were too old to be potential victims of the Mexican priest.

Police later found that 25 of Aguilar Rivera's alleged victims were altar boys and the other victim was training with the priest to be one, said Anthony DeMarco, a plaintiff attorney.


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It's not clear what impact Mahony's action had on the investigation, though at the time, police complained that the archdiocese wasn't fully cooperating.

Mahony, who retired as head of the archdiocese in 2011, was admonished last year by Archbishop Jose Gomez for his handling of the abuse crisis, but he has avoided criminal prosecution, despite multiple investigations.

With only a three- to five-year period to bring obstruction of justice charges after a crime -- depending on a federal or state court venue -- it's unlikely he or other church administrators would face charges now for cases that date back more than a decade, said Lawrence Rosenthal, a criminal law professor at Chapman University.