BAKERSFIELD,Calif. — On Friday, the Fresno County District Attorney's office announced that they are not filing criminal charges against Monsignor Craig Harrison.
Many parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi are saying they had no doubt this would be the outcome. Harrison's attorney, Kyle Humphrey, says he's still fighting to clear Harrison's name.
Mary Ann Long, a parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi, has continued to support Harrison during the allegations of sexual misconduct brought against him.
"I think his reputation has been vindicated and I am happy to hear it," Long said.
Many other parishioners are saying their prayers have been answered after the Fresno District Attorney's office announced it's not seeking criminal charges against Harrison.
"We are innocent until we are proven guilty, and I think they went out of their way to do a really thorough job of investigating," Mike Lapham, a parishioner of St. Francis Assisi. "I am not surprised at all."
The Fresno DA's office decision concludes a series of three investigations, which included accusations in Firebaugh, Merced, and Bakersfield.
Kern County and Merced County authorities have previously declined to press charges concerning sexual misconduct claims against Harrison in Bakersfield and Merced.
A statement by the DA's office said in part it has "concluded that the applicable statute of limitations bars the filing of criminal charges. While the allegations made against Monsignor Harrison appear credible to investigators, they reportedly occurred in the 1990s. These allegations were not reported to law enforcement until April of 2019. Delayed reporting is not uncommon in sexual assault cases, but it can limit the ability to criminally charge and prosecute offenders."
Harrison's lawyer Humphrey says this case is far from over.
"This is a big deal and we are very happy and I know he feels a sense of relief," Humphrey said. "By tomorrow we will be back working on it, because we did not like the press release and character of it, by Fresno DA. "It's completely unprofessional and we will be looking for any legal ramifications on that and we will continue our investigation that they didn’t do."
Humphrey says he is outraged by the term credible allegations on the press release. He says it will bring continual damage to Harrison's name in Bakersfield and beyond.
"I think they are using the term of art that has come out in the me too generation, nobody wants to look bad dismissing an allegation no matter how crazy it is," said Humphrey. "It could be deeper than that it could be malice."
In their statement, Fresno DA's office noted, that a different statute of limitations may apply to civil actions. Humphrey says he's not worried about those.
"Bring it on," Humphrey said. "Honestly you can never convince me that personal injury attorneys who give money to political campaigns and who have been pushing to extend the statute of limitations across the county didn’t know this was going to happen. They come out and pretend like these are people who have no financial interests at all."
Humphrey says he and Harrison believe the Fresno Diocese did not have Harrison's best interest. Also, he says it will make it difficult for him to return to his duties in Bakersfield and impossible to go anywhere else.
Humphrey adds that Harrison is preparing to file a lawsuit sometime next week against the diocese and will continue to seek further information and documents on their overall investigation.