Thursday, June 10, 2021

Two men file lawsuits claiming they were sexually abused by Craig Harrison, the Sierra Club joins the chorus of people lamenting the damage homeless have done to the Kern River Parkway,

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 represent any other company or publication.

 * ... FATHER CRAIG: It was a remarkable scene out of Fresno this week when a prominent child abuse attorney laid out two lawsuits filed against former Bakersfield priest Craig Harrison. Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson and Associates referred to Harrison as a "predator" whose actions against young men were of a "serial nature," and he speculated that even out of the church, Harrison represented a "peril" to other men.

Anderson's firm represents two men, both unidentified, who claim Harrison sexually abused them in the early 1990s. Furthermore, the lawsuits claim the Diocese of Fresno not only knew about Harrison's actions but also covered them up. Anderson further indicated that there may be more victims. "We are interviewing others," he said. "How many? We don't know." Meanwhile, back home Harrison's criminal defense attorney, Kyle Humphrey, doubled down on his claim that victims were coming forward simply for the money. Humphrey had predicted the lawsuits and said people would come forward like "pigs" to a trough in search of money. One of two things is happening here: either the past has caught up with Craig Harrison, or Humphrey is correct. Now that the accusers have filed suit, the public can judge for itself when the accusers lay out their case in depositions and trial testimony. Harrison and his attorneys are now juggling five separate lawsuits, including three defamation suits that Harrison filed against critics and the two latest which put Harrison on the defensive.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Maybe I will get a $100 gift card to Lowe’s for Father’s Day so I can buy 1 sheet of plywood."

 * ... OUR TRASHED TOWN: Momentum is building in the community to do something about the homeless, the culmination of a growing frustration that government is watching with hands tied as parts of our city are being trashed. And no where is that trashing worse than along the bike path and the Kern River Parkway, which is now home to several hundred homeless who have left the riverbed looking like a scene out of the famous Rio de Janerio slums. And now comes the Kern-Kaweah chapter of the Sierra Club, which has joined the chorus of people complaining that something must be done. "At present much of the river (now far too often a dry riverbed) is being trashed. This includes San Miguel Grove, Uplands of the Kern and, to a lesser extent, Beach and Yokuts Park. San Miguel Grove is a particularly tragic example of what should be a natural open riparian area is strewn with all manner of rash, left by unlawful campers and others using the place for a dump, leaving the area strewn with all manner of waste filth, broken glass and drug related paraphernalia including sharps," Stephen Montgomery of the Sierra Club wrote to Beatris Sanders, chair of the citizens committee overseeing Measure N funding. Montgomery called on the city to set aside money to keep the riverbed clean by hiring more police on bikes to patrol the area, do a better job of cleaning up litter and conducting a longer term study to address issues along the riverbed.

 * ... BAKERSFIELD OBSERVED: My new podcast, Bakersfield Observed with Richard Beene, is up and running, focusing attention every week on an important issue or newsmaker about town. The first two episodes are now up, the first an interview with Lois Henry on how parts of central California are literally sinking because too much water is pumped out of the ground, and the second a chat with Carlos Baldovinos about the ongoing homelessness issue. The next episode will be released Thursday and examine the controversial concept of Critical Race Theory, which proposes a new way of teaching American history with a new emphasis on race, power and privilege. Bakersfield High teacher Jeremy Adams is my guest. Follow the podcast on KERNRADIO.COM, on Spotify or wherever you access your podcasts.

 * ... RIDGE ROUTE: I spotted these pictures of the old Ridge Route on a Facebook page devoted to Highway 99. Not sure of the dates. Enjoy.

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And finally thanks to the Kern County History Fans who posted this picture of a grocer. The cutline: "1930's - H. H. Close Market... 301 South 10th Street (was then South Lincoln)
Taft, Kern County, California  Proprietor: Herbert Henry Close (1889-1963) Credit to Lawrence Peahl for address and approximate years open.


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Attorneys preparing to hit former Bakersfield Catholic priest Craig Harrison with two lawsuits alleging he sexually abused two boys

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 represent any other company or publication.

 For the first time since he was suspended from the Catholic Church more than a year ago, former priest Craig Harrison has been hit with two lawsuits alleging he sexually abused two young boys while serving as a priest in the Diocese of Fresno.
 The lawsuits will be announced Wednesday in Fresno during a press conference by Jeff Anderson and Associates, a firm that specializes in child abuse at the hands of Catholic priests. The press conference will begin at 1 p.m. PST at the DoubleTree by Hilton at the Fresno Convention Center.

 According to the attorneys, the two civil child sexual abuse lawsuits will be filed accusing Harrison of sexually abusing the boys as well as Fresno Catholic officials for ignoring and concealed his crimes.
 In a statement by one of the plaintiffs, identified simply as Joseph Doe: he said: “Msgr. Harrison hurt me when I was an altar boy at St. Francis. I was just a kid, and he used his position of power as a priest to abuse me. Msgr. Harrison stole my childhood, and every day since then I have lived with shame. I want the Bishop to start protecting kids. I want the Bishop to stop helping abusers. I want the Bishop to stop keeping secrets about abuse.”
 The statement from the attorneys went on to read: "On April 12, 2019, a survivor made a report of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by Msgr. Harrison to the Diocese of Fresno. Three days after receipt of this report, the Diocese allegedly contacted the Firebaugh Police Department. Msgr. Harrison was reportedly put on paid administrative leave due to an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor that occurred decades prior in Firebaugh, California. Since then, two other survivors have come forward alleging childhood sexual abuse by Msgr. Harrison. One of the survivors purportedly previously reported the sexual abuse by Msgr. Harrison in 1998, and again in 2002. The Diocese deemed the allegation unsubstantiated and Msgr. Harrison continued his priesthood. A survivor who has alleged sexual abuse against Msgr. Harrison is a Catholic monk that referred to Msgr. Harrison as a mentor and felt compelled to come forward after hearing other allegations."
 These lawsuits mark the first time since his suspension that Harrison has been targeted by alleged victims. Up to this point, it has been Harrison filing the lawsuits: including one against the Diocese of Fresno for defamation, and two other defamation lawsuits against former monk Ryan Gilligan (he has not filed suit against Harrison but has submitted damming statements against him) and an organization that tracks wayward priests, known as the Roman Catholic Faithful.

 The attorneys also are putting pressure on the Diocese, and on Bishop Joseph Brennan, to reveal a list of "credibly accused priests." 
 "After decades of pressure, " the attorneys said, "the vast majority of US bishops have posted on church websites the names of and often some details about proven, admitted, and credibly accused predatory clerics. Unfortunately, the Diocese of Fresno is one of sixteen Catholic Dioceses in the United States yet to publish a list of credibly accused clergy. Many consider this long-overdue step to be the bare minimum church officials should do to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded."
  Now out of the church, Harrison has been busy trying to rebuild his life and his reputation. He has positioned himself as a life coach and counselor, and has scheduled an appearance at the Fox Theater soon to address an audience of women.
 The filing of the lawsuits against Harrison moves the case into a potentially critical and revealing phase, when details of the alleged encounters with Harrison will be submitted in court in lurid detail while Harrison and his attorneys will attempt to discredit the accusers one by one. Stay tuned.