UPDATE: Attorney Says “Robber” Craig Harrison sexually assaulted 2 minors, one in Bakersfield Church
FRESNO, Calif. (KGET) – Attorneys have filed lawsuits alleging former priest Craig Harrison sexually assaulted two minors, one of them at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Bakersfield.
One lawsuit said Harrison sexually assaulted a 13-year-old boy in St. Francis in about 1990, according to attorney Jeff Anderson. At a news conference in Fresno on Wednesday, he said Harrison lured the teenager into the rectory and “repeatedly injured” him.
“Because of (Harrison’s) position as the defendant’s priest, he met and nursed the plaintiff, built trust with the plaintiff, and manipulated that trust to sexually abuse and abuse the plaintiff,” the lawsuit reads.
The other lawsuit alleges Harrison sexually abused a teenager in Firebaugh for three years, starting when the boy was 15 years old. The abuse started in 1993.
“While performing his duties as a priest and performing the duties required in that role, (Harrison) befriended the plaintiff and gained the plaintiff’s trust as a spiritual guide, figure of authority, and trustworthy mentor,” the lawsuit reads.
Anderson said he is well aware that Harrison is a very public pastor who has been in the diocese for years and is loved and trusted by many.
But he’s also a predator, said the lawyer.
Harrison has claimed he never committed any wrongdoing. He resigned from the priesthood earlier this year after saying it had become clear that the diocese had no interest in helping him and would not allow him to serve as a priest.
Both lawsuits have been filed in the Alameda County Superior Court. They name the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno among the defendants and say the diocese “knew or had reason to know” that Harrison committed sexual misconduct and ignored or withheld it from others.
The complaints accuse the diocese of negligence and negligent supervision of minors.
“Defendants have failed to adequately supervise (Harrison), fail to exercise reasonable care in the investigation (Harrison), and fail to adequately warn Plaintiff and others of (Harrison’s) dangerous inclination and unsuitability,” the lawsuits state . “The defendants also failed to take reasonable steps to prevent childhood sexual assault, harassment and molestation of minor children, including the plaintiff.”
Kyle J. Humphrey, one of a group of attorneys representing Harrison, said the allegations were false and he suspected from the start that the allegations that surfaced against Harrison two years ago were just the preliminary stages of a lawsuit.
“We have said from the start that, in the end, it is always about money,” Humphrey said in a press release.
Anderson, who co-filed the lawsuits with Sacramento-based attorney Joseph George Jr., said the alleged victims were now in their 40s or 50s and had suffered for decades. While the criminal statute of limitations has expired, state law allows them to identify Harrison as the perpetrator and take action against the diocese, bishop and wards where the alleged crimes have occurred.
During the press conference, Anderson asked the Bishop of Fresno, Joseph V. Brennan, to release the list of accused priests, which the diocese compiled and published two years ago.
“And so we are here today to not only announce the filing of these two lawsuits against Monsignor Harrison, but also to implore Bishop Brennan to release his list,” said Anderson. “To publish the list that we know he has, that he, like his predecessors, has kept secret from him, and the list of priests that he knows are believable in their opinion and in the opinion of the diocese accused were of childhood sexual abuse. “
Diocese spokeswoman Cheryl Sarkisian said in an email that the list would be released “which should be soon” as soon as it is ready. She said it would be posted on the diocese’s website.
Regarding the lawsuits, Sarkisian said it was the diocese’s policy not to comment on pending litigation.
Harrison has been the subject of criminal investigations in three counties. The authorities in Bakersfield, Fresno and Merced declined to file criminal charges for expired statute of limitations or insufficient evidence.
Fresno prosecutors said last year the allegations against Harrison “appear credible” but occurred in the 1990s and were not reported until decades later.
Bakersfield police said Harrison would not be charged due to insufficient evidence. Merced authorities said the allegations under their jurisdiction stemmed from alleged crimes in the 1980s and the statute of limitations has expired.