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MERCED, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A local California district attorney is considering the possibility of pressing criminal charges against Msgr. Craig Harrison.
In a statement to Church Militant, the Merced County District Attorney's Office has confirmed it is reviewing the police investigative file of the priest, accused by at least half a dozen men of sex abuse.
"The Merced County District Attorney's Office has now received the completed investigation regarding Monsignor Harrison from the Merced Police Department and the case is under review," the statement reads.
Although Merced police have not commented on the case, the protocol for police investigations is to forward their investigation to the local prosecutor if police find evidence of criminality.
Church Militant confirmed with the Merced County D.A.'s Office that the reason the prosecutor is reviewing the files is to determine if he should file criminal charges.
Merced is one among three local police departments conducting separate investigations into Harrison for separate incidents of sex abuse reported in Merced, Bakersfield and Firebaugh.
Bakersfield police, where Harrison served as longtime chaplain, closed its two-month investigation on July 25 and chose not to turn over their investigative file to the Kern County District Attorney's Office after failing to substantiate the allegations.
"Right now it's a 'he said, she said' situation," said Bakersfield Police Department public information officer Nathan McCauley at the time, who said the lack of physical evidence "to show the event occurred" prevented them from determining criminality. For this reason, they did not forward the case to the Kern County prosecutor.
But critics have called the Bakersfield police probe a sham investigation that ignored 95% of witnesses.
Harrison first made mention of the closed Merced Police Department investigation at a July 25 press conference, where he tearfully defended himself against the allegations and accused alleged victims of lying.
A reporter at the conference asked how he became aware that Merced police had closed its investigation, as it had made no public statement one way or another. Harrison's attorney, Kyle Humphrey, evaded the question.
Although Harrison was technically correct that Merced police had completed its investigation, the implication that he would also be exonerated by Merced police was wrong.
Church Militant obtained the 114-page investigative file from the Bakersfield Police Department earlier this month, which shows that lead investigator Randy Petris failed to interview 42 out of 44 direct and indirect witnesses to Harrison's alleged misconduct.
The omissions have led critics to believe Bakersfield police — already suspected of being compromised for their longstanding friendship with Harrison — conducted a sham investigation meant to protect Harrison rather than pursue the truth.
"My first thought was the hierarchy must be behind this and I'm getting a little too close to too much information," Brady told Church Militant earlier this month.
This is a frivolous lawsuit designed to attack and chill protected First Amendment activity. My clients, Stephen Brady and Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc., pursued a legitimate news story involving credible allegations of sexual abuse by Msgr. Craig Harrison. There's overwhelming evidence that my clients' statements were true, which is a complete defense to the plaintiff's claim for defamation.
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