Friday, March 10, 2023

Former Bakersfield priest Craig Harrison, accused of sexual misdeeds, is ordered to pay $219,000 in attorney fees to a critic who was investigating the sexual abuse allegations against him; it is Harrison's latest loss in court

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.

 A Kern County Superior Court judge has ruled that accused sexual molester Craig Harrison must pay $219,000 in legal fees to a man who criticized Harrison and was promptly sued for libel by Harrison and his team of attorneys.

 The ruling by Judge Eric Bradshaw was handed down last week and made public by The Church Militant, a national organization that is devoted to outing sexual predators in the Catholic clergy. The ruling came in the case of Stephen Brady, who runs the organization The Roman Catholic Faithful, which helps track and report on priests accused of wrongdoing.
 In the ruling, the court named two Harrison attorneys: civil attorney Craig Edmonston and criminal lawyer Kyle Humphrey. Both were part of Harrison's defense team that worked to silence critics by slapping them with lawsuits, several of which were thrown out of court.
 Brady was represented by the San Diego law firm of Limandri & Jonna, which specializes in church abuse cases.
 Brady was accused of libel after he held a press conference in Bakersfield to talk about the accusations against Harrison. At the time the libel suit was filed Humphrey said the intent was "to restore the reputation and good name of Monsignor Craig Harrison and to hold accountable these defendants for their false, malicious and reckless accusations." 
 The court disagreed.
 Harrison's lawsuit claimed Brady published false defamatory, libelous, and slanderous statements about Harrison, including that he had sex with two high school students while a pastor in Firebaugh. The lawsuit also claimed that Brady said Harrison would examine boy's private parts every morning. Another claim stated that he had sex with a minor in a Ford Explorer and that teen committed suicide following abuse by Monsignor.
 Brady's attorneys argued the case against him was frivolous - they claimed it violated his First Amendment rights to speak about matters already in the public arena - and that they should be reimbursed for attorney costs. The judgment presumably will be paid by Harrison or his group of local supporters.
 The $219,000 judgment comes in the Brady case, and a similar outcome could be expected in a second libel case that Harrison lost against Ryan Gilligan, a former Benedictine monk and confident of Harrison's who accused the former priest of sexually inappropriate behavior. Harrison sued Gilligan and lost that case as well.
 All of this harkens back to when Harrison, once a wildly popular monsignor, media darling and accomplished fund raiser, was suspended by the Diocese of Fresno in April 2019 after a man came forward to say Harrison abused him when he was a young man. After that numerous other accusations from once young men followed, the church launched a formal investigation, Harrison sued the church and lost and Harrison eventually voluntarily left the church.
 So far all of Harrison's lawsuits against his detractors handled by Edmonston and his team - The Catholic Church, Stephen Brady, Ryan Gilligan and a diocese employee - have failed in the courts.
 Once Harrison had surrendered all of his priest duties, the church responded by removing all memories of Harrison at St. Francis Church, including taking Harrison's name off the side of a youth center that had been named after him. Harrison is shielded from any criminal charges because of the statute of limitations, but two civil lawsuits by men accusing Harrison of sexual impropriety are making their way through the courts and appear headed to trial.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Concerns are raised about a out of control spending on the homeless, Bakersfield's air is ranked worst in the nation and do you know how to get to Rosedale?

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.

 * ... MEASURE N: It's nice to see some sobriety seep into the discussions about the money our city and county are plowing into fighting homelessness, as well as a new emphasis on how the city is spending its Measure N sales tax money. First, a big shoutout to Clayton Campbell, a local businessman who serves on the city's Public Safety and Vital Services' Citizens Oversight Committee. During a discussion of how to spend $19 million in tax money, Campbell expressed fears that the recurring costs of programs to fight

homelessness would set a dangerous precedent in the future. "I'm not satisfied that this money is being spent in a way that actually resolves any homelessness," said Campbell. "I'm not convinced that there's information to support that." Echoing that sentiment and cheering on Campbell was former City Councilman Mark Salvaggio, who has been warning of an out of control "homeless industrial complex that has become the third rail entitlement in our local city and county governments." Campbell and Salvaggio represent a growing faction of local leaders who are wary of the millions being poured into homeless while issues like crime and safety get short shrift. It is a conversation that is long overdue and some taxpayers are wondering how crime and homelessness remain so hopeless after we have spent millions, and whether we are spending too much time trying to find housing for the homeless rather than providing safe streets and quicker response times.

* ... AIR POLLUTION: One of the benefits of these winter storms has been the incredible crystal clear skies that are ushered in during the storm's aftermath. But these picture postcard days hide a hard truth that says despite progress we have made, Bakersfield remains one of the most polluted cities in America. According to a survey run by The Guardian newspaper in Longdon, "America’s top spot is not a traffic-clogged metropolis or renowned heavy industry zone but a small town surrounded by farmland and mountains." The survey found that in many cities, the high pollution areas are homes to minority families. Rounding out the top five worst polluters after Bakersfield were south Los Angeles, southwest Chicago, northwest Indianapolis and central Midwest industrial zone.

 * ... DOWNTOWN SHOOTOUT: The downtown homeowner who exchanged gunfire with three men who allegedly were trying to break into his home has been identified as local custom home builder John Dovichi. The Feb. 23 incident, which happened at the end of the Pine Street cul-de-sac on the south side of 24th Street. was triggered when Dovichi drove home after dinner only to find a strange car parked in his driveway and three men outside. Shots were exchanged and one of the suspects, 43-year-old Melvin Carter, was shot in his thigh and arm and is at Kern Medical Center. Also arrested was 36-year-old Frederic Minnoy III of Bakersfield. A third suspect has not been identified. Police are trying to determine if this incident is related to other home invasions or if this incidents stands alone.

 * ... HOMELESS PROBLEMS: Did you hear about the homeless guy who broke into the downtown Post Office and spent the overnight hours trying to break into lockers and urinating on the floor? Well it happened at the Merle Haggard post office on 18th Street and the unidentified homeless man was taken to a local hospital for psychiatric examination. All of this might even be funny were it not for the toll of destruction left behind by homeless vagrants. Things are so bad downtown that the Post Office removed the street mail boxes because they were not secure. And so it goes. (A random homeless person takes care of business in town)

 * ... WHERE IS ROSEDALE: If you live in Bakersfield, you have some idea of how to drive to Rosedale. Or do you? It turns out the boundaries of what we now call Rosedale have changed over the years, and a man named Mark McGowan schooled me on the rich history of Rosedale in a recent post on the Facebook page of the Kern County History Fans. Listen to McGowan describe old Rosedale: "When I was a kid, there were distinct communities along Rosedale Hwy. west of 99. Then, in the 90s, along came the developers. I guess they figured it was easier to call everything Rosedale to avoid confusing people. Here, however, is the way it was before that.
 The area from 99 (or Pierce Rd. before that) to the tracks was called Fairhaven. There was a Hancock service station, Hagestad Drilling, and Reagan Reese oil tools there. My friend, Gary Stites, was a Fairhavener!
 From the tracks to Coffee Rd (which only went south from Rosedale Hwy to Brimhall Rd) was Fruitvale. That's where we lived until I was seven. We had Fruitvale School (now Vista West) which boasted an Olympic sized swimming pool with low and high diving boards, an annual BBQ, a church, a store (Hudson's Market) with Sunland gas pumps, a Mohawk gas station, and Bookout's Wrecking Yard. There were also numerous wood and steel standard oil derricks in the area.
 From Coffee Rd. to the Santa Fe tracks (there was no overpass back then) was Greenacres. We would live there a couple years too. The area incuded the power plant, a drive through Milk Jug dairy outlet, a store (Clem's Market), Perry's Drive In (now Super Tom's), a fire station, a coffee shop, a church, a barber shop, and Greenacres Primary school (now Fruitvale Jr. High), which had a huge recreation area behind it that hosted "Rec" at night during the summer.
 From the tracks to Renfro Rd. was ROSEDALE! It included a school (where our Cub Scout troop met), an annual BBQ, a church, a store, gas stations, and a coffee shop, but it was primarily, alfafa fields. My first sweetheart, Bernadette Fregeau Parks Angelo was a Rosedalian, even though Fruitvale and Rosedale were rivals!
 From Renfro to Superior Rd. was called Greely. It was mostly farms and the families who ran them, but they did have a store and a church. It's where we met for Weblows (between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts).
 Beyond there was Rio Bravo. They had a school (still there), a church and a gas station.
 So, now you know that it's not all Rosedale!"
 (Thank you Mark and thanks to the Kern County History Fans for this fascinating look into our collective past.)

 * ... TOBERLONE: Did you hear the Swiss chocolate maker Toblerone is changing its iconic branding by removing its famous mountain peak on the wrapper. First, let's state that this is not a reaction to any Swiss wokeism, but rather a response to a Swiss law that prevents images of national symbols to be on packages sold out of the country.

 * ... PASSINGS: Two local restaurants have called it quits, both popular among diehard fans but apparently that wasn't enough to stay in business. Famous Dave's barbeque and Randy's Donuts have both called it quits locally. 

* ... MEMORIES: Check out these old photos from our friends at the Kern County History Fans Facebook book page. Always an interesting journey.