DA Mulling Criminal Prosecution of Msgr. Craig Harrison

News: US News
by Christine Niles  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 29, 2019   

Merced County DA's Office has confirmed it's reviewing allegations of sexual assault

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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 prosecutor is reviewing the files to determine if he should file criminal charges.

"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.

Bakersfield Police Lead Investigator Ignored 95% of Witnesses

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.

Petris conducted all the interviews, which in all totaled around only 14.

A total of 44 witness names were provided to Bakersfield police by two local monks, Br. Justin Gilligan and Br. Charles Rodriguez. Petris only interviewed two of the witnesses, ignoring the remaining 42. Among the individuals not interviewed by Petris:
  • A religious sister who once said something needs to be done about "getting those boys out of his [Harrison's] bed"
  • A former RCIA director whose son was among those in Harrison's inner circle
  • A doctor close to Harrison, who offered seminarians free doctors' visits and prescribed medicine for Harrison "which there is a lot of"
  • An errand boy at St. Francis Church, Harrison's parish, who could provide information about his "open rectory with minors, money issues, lying, manipulating, etc."
  • A person in financial planning involved in a deal with Harrison that went wrong involving $800,000
Additionally, a deacon and a number of employees and volunteers at Harrison's parish who witnessed his conduct with minors were ignored, along with a personal trainer, a Fresno seminarian, a young man in rehab, a security and multiple other individuals.

Lawsuit Against Stephen Brady

In mid-August, Harrison filed a defamation lawsuit against Stephen Brady, head of the watchdog group Roman Catholic Faithful, seeking "unlimited" damages for Brady's claims made at a press conference Brady held in May discussing sex abuse allegations made against Harrison.

Private investigator hired by Msgr. Craig Harrison

to aid him in his legal case

"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.

Roman Catholic Faithful specializes in exposing corruption among Church leaders, and is responsible for the removal of at least two bishops after they were revealed to be active homosexuals leading double lives.
"There are almost 50 witnesses against Fr. Harrison with information on some 10 allegations against him," Brady said. "I'm looking forward to the discovery process if it goes that far."
Brady is being represented by Paul Jonna, whose law firm has previously represented high-profile clients like pro-life hero David Daleiden. Jonna issued a statement responding to the lawsuit:

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.

Church Militant has learned that Harrison has hired a private investigator, Victor Lostaunau, to aid him in his legal case and find out information that will help exculpate Harrison.
Church Militant contacted the Merced Police Department for comment but received no response as of press time. Church Militant also contacted Harrison's attorney Kyle Humphrey for reaction to the news of the D.A.'s review of his client's case but received no response to our media query.


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