A lawyer representing Monsignor Craig Harrison announced Tuesday that Harrison won’t drop a defamation lawsuit against The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno. The lawyer said the lawsuit will continue “despite threats of retaliation and punishment.”
The lawsuit centers around allegedly defamatory statements made by a diocese spokeswoman in a KQED article about accusations of sexual abuse. The spokeswoman is quoted from an email in the article, saying she believed the accusations.
November Lawsuit Motion To Dismiss Denied
A Kern County judge denied, in November, a motion seeking to dismiss a separate defamation lawsuit brought by Harrison against a former Catholic monk. That lawsuit accuses the former monk of “negligently and maliciously” publishing and re-publishing “false, defamatory, libelous, and slanderous statements including allegations of sexual misconduct.”
The lawsuit states that the following statements were “false, defamatory, libelous and slanderous”:
- “That I am a victim of his inappropriate touching, lies, manipulation and abuse of power”
- “I witnessed him being inappropriate with children, giving gifts and money, saying sexual jokes, touching and being alone with them”
- “I have also witnessed him taking advantage and controlling lives of younger men entrusted to him that had drug or alcohol problems”
- “He made sexual advances toward me which I rejected which caused tension through the years”
A Pattern Of Filing Lawsuits
Harrison has filed many lawsuits after law enforcement declined to file criminal charges against him stemming from sexual abuse charges. The Fresno County District Attorney’s office noted that allegations against Harrison appeared “credible” to investigators when declining to press charges in February because of statute of limitations reasons.
A court document from one of the lawsuits Harrison has filed contains an extensive list of sexual abuse allegations against Harrison. The court document claims Harrison is intimidating those who accuse him of sexual abuse via a campaign of harassment and lawsuits along with his brother. The document contains allegations of sexual abuse in Merced, Bakersfield and Firebaugh.
Fresno Diocese Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
At least 49 Fresno diocese members have been accused of sexual abuse. A lawsuit filed by a Fresno woman accuses the diocese of moving priest Anthony Moreno from Bakersfield to Fresno instead of firing him after the woman’s father reported Moreno sexually abused her.
Childhood sexual abuse survivors have until five years after becoming aware a psychological injury occurred because of sexual abuse, or until the age of 40, whichever comes later, to file a sexual abuse lawsuit in California, thanks to AB-218.