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Monsignor Craig Harrison, seated in the Law Offices of Kyle J. Humphrey during a chat with The Californian's Robert Price in June.

The Bakersfield Police Department has found no "criminal behavior with corroborative evidence" in a case of alleged sexual battery by Monsignor Craig Harrison against a minor in the 1990s, and the case is closed at this time, the department said Thursday. 

Within minutes of BPD's announcement, Harrison spoke about the accusations against him during a press conference outside his attorney's office, flanked by his children and grandchildren.

"My faith has remained unwavering as I've struggled to deal with the false allegations against me," he said in his statement, a copy of which was given to The Californian.

Wearing a dark blue suit jacket and light-colored dress shirt, Harrison also thanked the police for their hard work and leaving no stone unturned during the investigation.

"Accusations are easy to make but they're very difficult to defend," Harrison said. "I have been defamed, I've been slandered, libeled and irreparably harmed by these false accusers and those supporting them."

Harrison's attorney Kyle Humphrey echoed that sentiment, saying the allegations "smeared mud" on a local icon.

"It's a day of celebration. We knew it was coming because we've known from day one he didn't do any of these things people are accusing him of," Humphrey said. "It's just a wonderful day for his family, for him. It's painful to see how much damage has happened to him."

BPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Nathan McCauley said the investigation turned up no hard evidence of sexual battery, such as photos or videos.

"Right now it's a 'he said, she said' situation," he said.

However, Harrison will still remain on paid leave from his position with St. Francis Church, said Teresa Dominguez, a spokeswoman for The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno. She said that investigations of other abuse alleged against the priest are still ongoing with the Firebaugh and Merced police. The diocese is also conducting its own internal review of past allegations against priests, including Harrison.

The only known allegations against Harrison in Bakersfield were brought by a Texas man who grew up in Bakersfield and served as an altar boy under Harrison at St. Francis Church in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The man, who previously told his story to The Californian on the condition of anonymity, confirmed Thursday that it was his case the Bakersfield Police had closed. 

Reached Thursday, the man said police only told him the case was outside the statute of limitations and did not mention a lack of evidence.

"It's just very convenient," the man wrote in a text message, referring to the fact that Harrison is close with local police, having served as the department's chaplain since 2007.

The man's attorney, Joseph George Sr. of Sacramento, said Thursday that Harrison was "enmeshed" with BPD.

The man, a 43-year-old Iraq war veteran, previously told The Californian he was abused over four years by Harrison while as an altar boy at St. Francis Church in Bakersfield in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The man said he was the child of a poor, single mother and Harrison would give his mother money and groceries. The abuse started out as roughhousing in the parish rectory and escalated to groin-to-groin rubbing through clothes, he alleged. The man also said Harrison gave him money and alcohol, among other things, and later gave him two cars, wanted to adopt him, and offered to pay for his college.

The accusations against Harrison, a popular and beloved priest and native of Bakersfield, first came to light on April 25 when The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno placed him on paid administrative leave. The suspension came after a man contacted the diocese alleging that Harrison touched him on three separate occasions while serving as an altar boy at St. Joseph in Firebaugh decades ago. 

Harrison has denied all allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct against him.

Shortly after Harrison was placed on leave, another man contacted the diocese alleging "inappropriate behavior" when he was a minor at St. Patrick's Church in Merced in 1988.

And another man reported to Firebaugh police in 1998 that Harrison abused him at St. Joseph. The accuser came forward again in 2002 to report it to the diocese, which investigated and deemed the claim unsubstantiated. The Fresno diocese revisited those accusations in May, however, and the status of the investigation is unknown.

Harrison served as pastor at St. Joseph from July 1, 1992 to June 30, 1999. He worked at Our Lady of Mercy, St. Patrick's and Sacred Heart in Merced between Sept. 12, 1987 and June 21, 1989. Harrison has worked two stints at St. Francis in Bakersfield, once from June 22, 1989 to Oct. 16, 1991 and then again starting July 1, 1999.

Sam Morgen contributed to this report

(39) comments

Tony Tee

The BPD investigation went as far as it could. The accuser lives in Texas, so there may not have been an in-person interview between the accuser and the BPD. BPD would not shell out money to send an investigator 1000-miles to get a deposition for a case that is 30-years old! BPD has no jurisdiction in Texas. Also, the accuser may have wanted to remain anonymous and did not want to fly down to Bakersfield at his own expense. Our justice system does not prosecute someone over an anonymous accuser. I’m sure we all can appreciate that. Then there’s the accuser’s attorney, Joseph George. of Sacramento who is ‘enmeshed’ with SNAP. That attorney was referred to the un-named accuser by none other than SNAP! SNAP is known to receive ‘kickbacks’ from their attorney referrals!

AnotherConcernedCatholic

Does anyone recall feeling shocked by the Chris Burrous (former local news anchor) story? he is an example of how people who are very well liked (much like Craig Harrison) or enjoy being local celebrities, are absolutely capable of shocking behavior.

AnotherConcernedCatholic

Just because there is not any video evidence or photos does not mean he is innocent. I am really disappointed that the BPD would shut down any investigation of sexual abuse, due to lack of photos or video. It's not exactly what I would call a thorough investigation. I was one who did not want to believe the allegations. I was so discouraged when I heard the news. I honestly felt a type of loss. But then I realized it was my pride that was hurt. I didn't want my pastor to be "one of those priests". One of those sickos who grooms his flock to view him as someone who could do no wrong. I was attending St. Francis for years. There was always something about Harrison that made him seemed weird for a priest. He's too friendly. Yes, TOO friendly. The Holy Spirit tells me something is not quite right with Harrison. I think he is hiding something. Hiding in plain sight so-to-speak, by being soooo outgoing, generous and charismatic (as some describe him) He has manipulated people's perceptions of him. All some are willing to see is the money he gave, the jokes he has told, the kids he adopted. This is how people are manipulated- they are bought, won over by someone's "good works".

Mary Me

I was in Monsignor Craig's parish in Merced in the 90's. There was never anything said at that time.2 things bother me very much. First :the Diocese does not help in anyway. To me it's like shutting the door on your child.Second: He , no matter what will always be suspect by many. This is the goal of Catholic Haters. Destroy from the inside. I know Many of these men are guilty BUT the voice of the innocent is often not ever heard.

Athanasios

Just a quick thought.. The standard of conduct for anyone in a position of influence or leadership is not the criminal code. There are times when people are let go because behavior is not within the bounds of some established code of conduct for the organization by which they are employed. I’m not saying Fr. Craig is innocent or guilty, but because BPD and any other PD decide to not pursue charges does not exonerate all conduct.

Jerry Todd

True enough. I've seen really good people let go because they challenged the status quo. Others because they were in the way of a more influential competitor for the job. And many who deserve it. Rush Limbaugh never finished college, was fired several times, took over the radio gig in Sacramento my late friend Morton Downey, Jr. got himself canned from. Rush got the job at $25k. Today, he makes over $50 million. Sometimes we just have to stick to our goals and never be among those "cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat." TJR.

Catholic.Till.Death

He is too "popular" his blind sheep will never believe he raped boys! God saw it all! That's where those poor boys will receive JUSTICE.

Jerry Todd

Better he was hated, except by the usual few who can't stand other's accomplishments. Those "poor boys" - as if you have intimate knowledge, are now middle aged men who must by now have had a chance to grow up regardless of whether to not anything happened. My wife's Theology Professor at Marquette U became a close family friend. A highly honored man who we knew as a saint. Pope John Paul II appointed him a Bishop and sent him to one of our most famous Catholic institutions to try to straighten out the mess. Before then, he and another priest tried to help a disturbed young woman. It was about the beginning of the feminist movement. She accused them of coming on to her. She had her coaching too. BTW, "Catholic.Till.Death" is really God. "He saw it all." Follow the money.

Nevermind

The B.P.D. won't be the final judge. Right?

ConcernedCatholic

Why would the Diocese remove their most popular priest if there was no evidence????? Think people.

Jerry Todd

Standard operating procedure. He's not the only one removed. SNAP found a prominent priest-servant to the community, even spied on him like the opposition did to Sarah Palin's family in the 2008 election. Like our President, that makes him the target for those seeking to destroy the unity of the community and the nation. All with the best of intentions, of course.

IMO

He most likely was suspended from duties to limit the liability of the diocese (and any other jealous psychotic clerical participant). These allegations were not just exposed, but broadcasted , contrary to the Popes Guidelines. The diocese still needs to protect him from the radicals and followers of the so called Church of Voris Militants who falsely pose themselves as representing the Catholic Church. The Popes Guidelines weren’t valid to the hypocritical CM’s until just recently when their Dear Fr. Perrone was accused. Suddenly the tables are turned, and the “guidelines” have been violated on behalf of Fr. Perrone and no other accused clergy.

mrdwm1

So the legal system has run it's course, and decided that unfounded allegations of something undocumented from decades ago is not enough to prosecute. Guess it's time for the Enlightened Ones in the media to persecute thru social media, which is the only place where their twisted mindsets means anything.

Vavoom

what kind of evidence do we need? kern county law enforcement has a history of using verbal statements/accusations as substantial proof. not surprising though. the predator served as the bpd and sheriff's dept's chaplain for how many years? CONFLICT of interest? hhmmmm

REMUDA

No affidavit? No evidence? No complaint. Verba Volant, Scripta Manent . . .

Vico17

True, while the words fly, the written record remains. I sometimes say he is guilt by association (Catholic priests have earned their reputation), but then I remember what the liberals tried to do to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and empathize with the Monsignor (even if both are, or were, clean as a whistle, their reputations are now ruined). I don't know him personally so I can't judge. If he is a liberal at heart then he betrayed his vows, his flock, his trust and deserves what he gets. If the accusers are going after him for monetary gains God will judge them one day. Only God, Mongignor Harrison and the accusers know.

REMUDA

At this point, Monsignor Harrison is not only "INNOCENT" . . . he was "NEVER GUILTY" . . . by association . . . or California Law . . . or Canon Law. --- However, the California judicial system IS still open to perhaps prosecute others who may have denied him . . . his rights, honor and TRUE JUSTICE! (S*N*A*P and others?)

Catholic.Till.Death

You weren't there when he was touching boys! You and all his followers will never know the Truth. Blind by his popularity. God saw it all and he will answer.

Jerry Todd

Bishop Fulton Sheen in addressing prisoners told them "The only difference between you and me is you got caught." Another way of saying, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." I'm sure the prisoners laughed. Weenies never do, being buried in their own guilt.

REMUDA

'When somebody says: "I'm Catholic BUT . . . " It means They're really NOT Catholic!' (Fulton J. Sheen)

Sheebe

What part do some of you not understand about the case is closed? Some poisoned ones commenting. You want a person to be guilty when there is not case. Maybe someday the same will happen to you. Lets see how you like that.

Fightingsideofme

You speak the truth.

Catholic.Till.Death

How are you soooooo sure he didnt touch these boys? How could the bpd find no evidence? It's hard to prove rape, unless you were there. I stand by the victim and so does GOD! This man will answer to God!

Jerry Todd

When did you stop beating your wife?

ConcernedCatholic

ITS NOT OVER PEOPLE. What matters is the Fresno Diocese decision.

Jerry Todd

Now that I know who you are, I'm sorry for you.

JR

Great. Now, this pedophile can go on to sexually abuse and ruin other children's lives thanks to people who put their religious beliefs above the lives of others. Congratulations! You've paid for your ticket to heaven with the life of some innocent children.

ConcernedCatholic

It's all up to the Diocese to make a decision on whether or not he can continue to serve as a priest. Doesn't matter about criminal charges.

ConcernedCatholic

BPD Public Information Officer Nathan McCauley said the investigation turned up no hard evidence of sexual battery, such as photos or videos. "Right now it's a 'he said, she said' situation," he said.

SNAP lies

He was cleared in both Bakersfield and Merced- only Firebaugh remains open! It’s time for the Army guy and Monk to tell everyone what liars they are.

ConcernedCatholic

However, Harrison will still remain on paid leave from his position with St. Francis Church, said Teresa Dominguez, a spokeswoman for The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno. She said that investigations of other abuse alleged against the priest are still ongoing with the Firebaugh and Merced police. The diocese is also conducting its own internal review of past allegations against priests.

Jerry Todd

The Diocese has a strange way of conducting investigations. Panic over money the accusers and their coaches and attorneys get to split. Easy money and they know it. Unconstitutional too.

ConcernedCatholic

The Diocese wouldn't remove their most popular priest for no reason.

Athanasios

I’m not sure there is enough information to say he’s exonerated of ALL charges. I wish the TBC was more specific as to which charges and by whom. There remain the charges of those located at other parishes that Fr. Harrison served.

Gary Crabtree

The BPD has closed the case yet you insist on regurgitating the unfounded charges. Shame on the TBC. You have now joined the main stream media with your "fake news".

ConcernedCatholic

BPD never said unfounded.

LocalCatholic

Finally, the truth prevails! Fr. Craig is a holy man. He is an innocent man.

Jerry Todd

Now for the Diocese to gather some Biblical courage and bring our Pastor back.

LocalCatholic

Exactly! Let’s pray it happens soon. I’m so happy his name is being cleared.

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