Friday, August 6, 2021

Diocese of Fresno: former Bakersfield priest Craig Harrison is among 37 priests facing charges of sexual abuse that appear to be true and credible

 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.

 The Diocese of Fresno has released a list of 37 priests who are facing "credible" charges of sexual abuse that church investigators say appear to be true.
 And among those priests is Craig Harrison, the former Bakersfield monsignor and head of St. Francis Parish who has been accused by multiple men of sexual abuse over a 30 year period while serving as a priest in Firebaugh, Merced and Bakersfield.
 The Fresno Diocese has been one of the last in California to release the list of "credibly accused" priests, and it comes at a time when Harrison has been trying to rebuild his life and reputation while his attorneys fend off new lawsuits alleging he abused young men.

 Harrison and his lawyers have steadfastly rejected the accusations since he was was first suspended from the church back in April 2019, but his accusers and detractors are expected to point to the list as further evidence that Harrison sexually preyed on young men while serving as a priest.
 "You know that our family is far from perfect and like many families, it can be dysfunctional at times," Bishop Joseph V. Brennan said in a statement. "Some members of the family - priests, deacons, and religious in positions of trust and leadership - have behaved badly. That is putting it mildly. Let's face it, acts of abuse upon the innocent and vulnerable are truly evil, plain and simply. The pain, suffering, betrayal, and loss of innocence felt by many victims last a lifetime."
 The Diocese said the list was compiled by Kinsale Consulting and the Diocesan Review Board under the leadership of former executive assistant director of the FBI, Kathleen McChesney.
 The Diocese said "credibly accused" means any allegation against Harrison and the others "appears to be credible, more likely than not to have occurred."
 While the statute of limitations protects Harrison and the others from criminal liability, they remain open to civil lawsuits from accusers. Two civil suits were recently filed against Harrison from men who said Harrison sexually exploited them while they were young men attending church. One lawsuit claims that Harrison assaulted a 13-year-old at St. Francis in 1990. The other claims that Harrison sexually assaulted a teenaged boy over a three-year period in Firebaugh, beginning in 1993.
 It is also the first time the Diocese has publicly acknowledged that the allegations against Harrison appear to be true and credible.
 The Harrison case has consumed his hometown of Bakersfield since the beginning, and initially few believed that their popular priest could be capable of such lewd behavior. As time wore on, Harrison's attorneys unleashed a series of threats and lawsuits against his accusers and detractors, including one claiming that a former understudy in Bakersfield named Ryan Dixon had slandered him by saying he believed the accusations to be true.
 Dixon claimed to have knowledge of Harrison being sexually inappropriate with young men and using his influence to groom young men for abuse by giving them money and doing personal favors for them. While at St. Francis, Harrison and Dixon were inseparable until, according to Dixon, it became clear Harrison was preying on young men.
 The lawsuit against Dixon, known as Brother Gilligan when he was studying to become a monk, is pending but Dixon called today's development a "vindication" for the accusers.
 "This is the first time in two years that the Diocese of Fresno has publicly acknowledged Harrison being credibly accused," Dixon said. "All we've heard until this point is a one sided story. This is vindication for a lot of young men."
 Dixon has not filed any civil action against Harrison but did cooperate with Diocese investigators during the investigation.


 The Diocese said the investigators reviewed more than 2,800 religious and clergy files dating back to the early 1900s.
 "The names identified to have allegations of sexual abuse of a minor in this file review were then provided to the Diocesan Review Board who during a year and a half period reviewed to the extent possible all reasonable, available, relevant information and reached the opinion that the allegation appeared to be credible, i.e., more likely than not to be true," the Diocese said in a statement.
 * photo credit: Top photo courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian. Below, Dixon and Harrison during happier times.

 Kyle Humphrey, one of Harrison's defense attorneys, released this statement following the church's release of its credibly accused list.

 "While the Bishop’s profound lack of integrity is a tragedy for the faithful, we are not surprised to see him follow through on his outrageous threats of vindictive retaliation against Craig. As we previously warned everyone, the Bishop made it clear to us that despite there being no new evidence, if Craig did not shut down his business and disappear from public life, the Bishop would baselessly add him to the list of credibly accused priests. To be clear, we previously confirmed with the Church that at the conclusion of its investigation, Craig was NOT on this list and there was no intention by the Church to add him to this list. Since then, there has been no new information and no support whatsoever for the claim that the accusations are credible. To this date, the Bishop has refused to interview Craig or review any of the overwhelming evidence proving his innocence. Craig remains innocent, all information available to us supports his innocence, all information available to the Church supports his innocence, and the Bishop remains the same immoral actor he has been since the beginning of his tenure. This is nothing new."


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Local radio shot host Ralph Bailey suffers a broken jaw in a fight at KC Steakhouse, Louis Gill resigns as head of the homeless center and the Wasco City Council removes Alex Garcia as mayor

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.

 * ... ALEX GARCIA: The Wasco City Council has voted to strip Mayor Alex Garcia of his title after

Garcia was cited for driving under the influence. The vote was 4-1 with Garcia objecting. Garcia claimed the move was in retaliation for his proposal to fly the LGBQT flag over Wasco City Hall, while his critics said it was a matter of personal responsibility. Garcia will remain on the City Council through the end of his term and has since pleaded no contest to reckless driving in exchange for the court dismissing a charge of driving while under the influence and acquitting him of a related charge of driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent.

 * ... LOUIS GILL RESIGNS: Louis Gill, one of the most prominent local players in the battle against homelessness, is leaving the nonprofit that operates the Bakersfield Homeless Center and the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault. Gill has served as head of the homeless center for 21 years and he said it was time to move on. Gill's move immediately triggered speculation he may run for local office, although he has not said what may be next in line. Local Democrats have been privately hoping Gill might consider a run for office.

 * ... MORE TROUBLE FOR RALPH BAILEY: Longtime local radio talk show host Ralph Bailey has found himself embroiled in another late night controversy, once again involving his birthday celebration and KC Steakhouse, Bailey's favorite cocktail lounge. This time it happened over the weekend when Bailey, out with two friends to celebrate his 58th birthday, suffered a broken jaw when he was punched during an altercation on the dance floor involving a waitress and another customer. Grainy security footage appears to show Bailey headed to the dance floor with the waitress, but once there another man steps in to dance with the woman. Words are then exchanged, Bailey is pushed, Bailey reacts by grabbing a bar stool and then the unidentified patron punches Bailey twice before a crowd separated the two men. Bailey said he broke his jaw and it will be surgically repaired on Thursday.  Ironically, it was during the same birthday weekend in 2013 that Bailey once again found himself at KC Steakhouse before he was arrested for public intoxication while walking home. Bailey also pleaded no contest to DUI after a 2006 arrest on E Street near 20th Street and in September 2005 he was charged with DUI and ended up pleading no contest to reckless driving. Bailey currently does not drive, opting instead to use ride sharing services. The Ralph Bailey Show airs weekdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on KERN NewsRadio 96.1 FM/1180 AM.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I’m on a plant based diet, and right now my favorite plant is the one where they manufacture the Tyson chicken nuggets. "

* ... ALL THE HATE: A sign of the times: of all the competition in the Olympics this year, few teams have proved more controversial with some U.S. fans than the U.S. women's soccer team, whose two losses  eliminated the team from the Gold medal round. The face of the women's soccer team is none other than Megan Rapinoe, whose fondness for bending the knee during the national anthem has incurred so much wrath among some Americans. After the U.S. women lost to Canada, the internet exploded with anti-Rapinoe vitriol.

 * ... MISSING: Did you read the story in The Californian about the search for two men who appeared in the newspaper more than 20 years ago at the California Living Museum (CALM)? Steven Mayer writes the museum is trying to locate the two young men - identified in the photo caption as Zach Elliott and J.J. Thomas - to recreate the photo two decades later. 

 * ... MEMORIES: I spend far too much time on the Kern County History Fans Facebook page where contributors share historic photos and postcards like the ones here. Enjoy.