Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company.
* ... FATHER CRAIG: A
re overzealous supporters of Father Craig Harrison harassing and intimidating those who speak out against the suspended priest? Those are the allegations made by a San Diego lawyer who wants to have a Harrison defamation lawsuit dismissed because it targets free speech. The allegations came in two statements included in a legal filing (called an anti-SLAPP motion) filed in response to Harrison's defamation lawsuits against two critics. Those two men are
Stephen Brady, head of a group called Roman Catholic Faithful, and Ryan Dixon, a former friend of Harrison's who is studying to become a monk and is now known as Brother Gilligan. Both have been sued by Harrison because of their criticism of Harrison. The anti-SLAPP motion seeks to have Harrison's lawsuit dismissed, and it provides Harrison's critics a new platform to raise questions about the monsignor's past behavior. Furthermore, the new charges by Brady and Dixon reveal a potential dark underside to the widespread support Harrison enjoys in the community. Some supporters, the motion alleges, have taken matters into their own hands in an attempt to harass and intimidate Brady and Dixon. Among the allegations:
* Brady claims he received a long series of rambling emails from Harrison's brother, Rick Harrison, in which he brags about hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for his brother's defense. In one email, he refers to Brady as "Satan."
* The more troubling allegations come from Brother Gilligan, in which he provides details about the time he and Harrison were close at St. Francis. Gilligan alleges Harrison lavished him with money and gifts to buy his allegiance. Gilligan also said Harrison would "befriend older wealthier people for financial gain." A one time, Gilligan said he felt betrayed ... when he (Harrison) asked me inappropriate questions to see whether I was homosexual." One other time, Gilligan said Harrison asked him, "What kind of porn do you watch?"
* Gilligan went on to allege he grew suspicious that Father Craig was sexually abusing kids at St. Francis and was told by another man that Harrison "would take his temperature by grabbing his testicles." Gilligan also claimed that during one trip, he shared a bed with Harrison and that the monsignor "sexually caressed" his chest for about 10 minutes.
* Gilligan also alleges that Harrison "told me directly that he wanted to tell people the sins I confessed to him so that I would be kicked out of seminary... Fr. Craig threatened to break the seal of confession because he was upset with me for threatening to tell authority figures about how he mishandles money, how he would give young guys, including myself, large amounts of cash, and particularly how he would manipulate me."
* Since giving testimony against Harrison, Brother Gilligan said his mother had been fired from her position at St. Francis and that his mother's home had been vandalized, her tires had been slashed and that his mother woke one morning to find her yard filled with "We Support Msgr. Craig Harrison" signs. He said his mother and grandmother were living in a "constant state of fear" and were forced to move to Oklahoma.
Harrison and his attorneys have denied all of these allegations and have indicated they are building a strong case against Brother Gilligan to refute the charges, one by one. It should also be noted that nowhere in Gilligan's statement does he or anyone allege that Father Craig personally directed or was involved (or even knew about) in any retaliatory behavior toward his critics.
THE NEXT STEP:
The judge hearing the case, Judge J. Eric Bradshaw, is weighing a request to have Harrison's personnel file made public. Harrison's attorney, Craig Edmonston, opposes the move and dismissed it as an overly broad fishing expedition. At stake: the personnel files might include past reports of inappropriate behavior as well as how the Diocese of Fresno responded to any previous allegations. (file photo of Father Craig with Ryan Dixon)
* ... BIRTHDAY:
As an aside, it should be noted that Father Craig continues to enjoy enormous popularity in Bakersfield, and that many of his followers are willingly contributing to a defense fund on his behalf. There is open talk of his attorneys suing the Catholic Church itself, and as a show of support, several hundred people (one person estimated the crowd at 600) turned out for a surprise birthday party on Father Craig's 60th birthday last week.
* ...COURTING TEXAS:
The state of Texas has wasted no time in exploiting Calfornia's troubles, erecting billboards across the state to lure businesses to move to the Lone Star state. The billboards promise a steady supply of electricity as opposed to the ongoing blackouts and power outages that have bedeviled California during the fire and high wind reason.
* ... ADIOS OLIVIA:
Olivia LaVoice, one of the better investigative TV reporters to come around in a long time, is leaving KGET for another gig at a Seattle television station. LaVoice will join KCPQ in Seattle, her hometown, after four years with KGET.
* ... BAD CITIES:
Check out this map I spotted on Facebook, which identifies Bakersfield as the "worst" city in California. Who makes these maps anyway? I can think of a hundred towns "worst" than Bakersfield ... have you ever been to Compton, or Inglewood, or Brea, or Modesto, or Riverside, just to name a few? You get my drift.
* ... MEMORIES:A
couple of historic cool old photos of our town back in the day.