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:
Father Craig Harrison got some good news last week when the Merced County District Attorney's office said it would not pursue charges of sexual impropriety dating back to a 1987 incident. Harrison's supporters cheered the news, even though authorities said it was
impossible to determine what happened - given the years that have passed - and the fact that the statute of limitations had expired. The decision was well short of a full exoneration for Harrison but it was still welcome news for a priest who has spent seven months trying to salvage not only his livelihood, but also his reputation. Harrison, 60, was removed from his position at St. Francis Parish last April pending an investigation into multiple charges of sexual impropriety over the years. What we are witnessing now is a public relations battle, being played out not in the courts or in a legal sense but in the court of public opinion. It pits defense attorney Kyle Humphrey, Harrison and Harrison's legions of followers against those who argue that the accusers should not be summarily dismissed simply because of Harrison's immense popularity. Given that the statute of limitations has expired in virtually all of the cases, there was never any doubt that Harrison would be cleared by authorities and that the final decision - in reality the only one that matters - is in the hands of the Diocese of Fresno, which suspended Harrison. What we have now is a spirited local campaign to clear Harrison's name, even if - as many speculate - he never holds mass ever again in a Catholic Church. Will we ever know the truth about what happened between Harrison and these young men decades ago? Likely not, given that all these cases seems to devolve into a he said/he said. Take your pick: you either support Harrison or you believe there may be a grain of truth in the stories of multiple men over several decades dating back to the 1980s in Firebaugh, Merced and Bakersfield.
WHERE WE ARE NOW:
In a local television interview Kyle Humphrey called out unnamed members of the press who he criticized for alleged slanted reporting. And he dodged a question if more lawsuits against Harrison's critics were forthcoming. Will he slap a lawsuit on the Catholic Church itself since - let's be clear here - it was the Diocese of Fresno that started this whole thing by removing Harrison from the church? That is not as far fetched as it seems since Harrison enjoys the support of some of our community's wealthiest and most influential business owners, as well as CEOs and vice presidents of some of Bakersfield's most prominent companies who have not been shy about publicly supporting their priest amid multiple allegations.
WHAT IS NEXT:
A big date is coming up Nov. 25 when the Diocese of Fresno will have to release Harrison's personnel file, which could do two things: add potentially damaging details to the charges by accusers, and tell us what the church knew, and when it knew it. Attorneys for both sides will meet with a Superior Court judge to determine how much - and when - of the personnel files will be released. One thing is clear: Humphrey and his team will deal with each accuser individually, cast doubt on their motives and impugn their credibility and do everything to win the public PR battle going forward.
At the end of the day, it will be Bishop Joseph Brennan who will decide Harrison's fate. Unlike prosecutors who look for evidence that could sway a jury, Brennan could decide he believes Harrison's reputation has been damaged bad enough that he could no long serve effectively, and cut him loose. His options: return Harrison to the pulpit, move him to another church, kick him out of the church or simply do nothing and let the case drag on for years. At the end of the day, and this is the pity in all this, we may never know what really happened to the men who came forward.
* ... BAD FORM: Remember Tatyana Hargrove,
the young woman who sued the Bakersfield police alleging excessive force a couple of years ago? You may remember her sitting alongside her attorney looking pained as she sought a jackpot for her alleged mistreatment. Well now -and you know where this is going don't you? - she has been arrested on suspicion of tampering with food at a local McDonald's where she worked. The charge: a coworker saw her spitting on food and rubbing a hamburger bun on the floor before serving a police officer. Hargrove was bitten by a police dog during the incident, sued the police and lost in court. And there you have it.
* ... GAS PRICES
: Well, it has happened. The price of a gallon of gasoline in California has spiked to $5 in some place, more than double the price in some other parts of the country. A Mobil station in West L.A. advertised gasoline for $5.29 per gallon of regular unleaded on Tuesday morning, video from the location showed. A gallon of supreme cost $5.69.
* ... MOVNG UP:
Congratulations to Chelsea Lewis who has passed the California bar exam and is headed to become a working lawyer. Belden is the daughter of Leanne and Scott Belden. Her father is a partner in the Belden Blaine Raytis law firm. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara and later the UC Hastings Law School.
* ... DENNIS MULLINS:
The funeral service for Dennis Mullins filled the chamber at Trinity Anglican Church in the southwest this weekend, a final goodbye to a quiet lawyer whose word was his bond. Mullins, 67, died of a ruptured aorta a week ago, leaving a wife (Melanie) and daughter Anna. Mullins worked for Tejon Ranch and Klein DeNatale Goldner before retiring recently and devoting his time as a water lawyer. He was considering going into the seminary at the time of his death.
* ... MEMORIES:
This is one of the most remarkable photos I have seen posted on the Kern County of Old Facebook page. There is no date attached. The second photo also is undated and appears to show Chester Avenue (or possibly 19th Street) downtown.