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Fresno County DA: Allegations made against Monsignor Harrison appear credible to investigators

Posted at 4:29 PM, Feb 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-14 22:14:12-05

No criminal charges will be filed against Monsignor Craig Harrison, who is accused of sexual misconduct with minors, the Fresno County District Attorney's Office announced Friday.

In their statement, Fresno DA officials said "while the allegations made against Monsignor Harrison appear credible to investigators, they reportedly occurred in the 1990’s. 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."

"The District Attorney’s decision is based upon the statute of limitations that applies to criminal cases. A different statute of limitations may apply to civil actions. Additionally, our decision pertains only to the Fresno County allegations that were reported and investigated," continued the statement.

Harrison was being investigated in Fresno County after a man in April 2019 reported to Firebaugh Police that he had been inappropriately touched as a teenager by Harrison while he was at St. Joseph's Church. At the time, Firebaugh Police said, when their investigation was completed, it would be up to the Fresno County District Attorney's Office whether to file charges.

This appears to conclude 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 in relation to sexual misconduct claims against Harrison in Bakersfield and Merced.

The case in Merced involved a 46-year-old man who told Merced Police that Harrison had inappropriately touched him in the late 1980s. At the time Harrison was serving at St. Patrick and Sacred Heart. A third alleged victim came forward claiming abuse by the Monsignor occurring in 1998.

Then in May 2019, a fourth allegation was reported to the Bakersfield Police Department of allegations of misdemeanor sexual misconduct by Harrison that allegedly occurred during the early 1990’s. However, in July the department said, after a thorough investigation, they did not identify any allegations of criminal behavior with corroborative evidence.

The nearly 200 pages of police reports detailed many of the same allegations already described by alleged victims through their attorneys, giving a window into how many leads Bakersfield police tracked down to make their decision not to file charges against the well-known priest.

Days after the initial complaint in April was made against Harrison, the Catholic Diocese of Fresno, which oversees Bakersfield Catholic churches, placed Harrison on administrative leave pending the investigations.

The Diocese of Fresno previously told 23ABC News that Msgr. Harrison would remain on administrative leave while Firebaugh and Merced police department investigations were completed.

On Friday, 23ABC reached out to the Fresno Diocese on the status of Harrison, following the news that Harrison would not be charged in Fresno county, but we did not hear back.

Records from the Fresno Diocese show Harrison served at Our Lady of Mercy, and St. Patricks Catholic Church in Merced from 1987 to 1989. Then, Harrison was at St. Francis Church from 1989 to 1991, until he went to St. Joseph Church in Firebaugh, CA. Harrison went back to St. Francis in 1999.

Harrison has filed defamation lawsuits against Roman Catholic Faithful and its founder, Stephen Brady, arguing that the RCF published false and defamatory statements regarding sexual misconduct allegations made against him.

He also filed a lawsuit against his alleged victims. In the lawsuit, which was filed in Kern County Superior Court, Monsignor Harrison claimed around May 21 and July 31 the defendant(s) "negligently and maliciously published and re-published false, defamatory, libelous, and slanderous statements including allegations of sexual misconduct".

Fresno County District Attorney’s Office Unable to File Sexual Assault Charges Against Monsignor Craig Harr... by Anthony Wright on Scribd