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Merced DA says criminal charges won't be filed against Harrison

Victim Rights March08

Monsignor Craig Harrison delivers the invocation at the Liberty Bell downtown during a Victims Rights March, in this file photo.

The Merced County District Attorney’s Office will not file criminal charges against the Rev. Monsignor Craig Harrison following allegations of inappropriate touching, the office said in a news release Friday afternoon.

Because the alleged incidents happened in 1987 and 1988, charges are prohibited because the statute of limitations has expired, the news release said. The release said the decision followed an exhaustive investigation by the Merced Police Department and staff from the district attorney’s office.

“We are grateful for the hard work and effort of the Merced District Attorney and Merced Police Department in reviewing the allegations in this instance,” Kyle Humphrey, one of Harrison’s attorneys, wrote in an email to The Californian. “We expected and believed that no charges would be filed because Msgr. Harrison is innocent.”

The investigation was initiated after a confidential victim came forward to the Merced Police Department in April, the news release said.

“Staff from the District Attorney’s Office worked with the Merced Police Department, and in mid-October, both agencies concluded that all available evidence and leads had been identified and exhausted,” the news release said.

The allegation under investigation came from a man who said Harrison touched him inappropriately at St. Patrick’s Church in Merced when the man was 16. The man spoke to The Californian earlier this year on condition of anonymity and said his parents had suspected he was using drugs and took him to see Harrison, whom they heard had a good reputation for helping troubled teenagers.

The man said he remembers going to a different part of the church with Harrison, because Harrison wanted him to provide a urine sample for a drug test. While the man was in the bathroom, he said, Harrison entered and touched him inappropriately.

The man said he went to Merced police earlier this year with his story after learning Harrison was placed on paid leave by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno for a separate allegation of sexual misconduct.

In addition to the Merced case, similar allegations against Harrison were filed with the Bakersfield and Firebaugh police departments.

The Bakersfield Police Department announced in July that its investigation yielded no corroborating evidence and no charges would be filed. The investigation also dealt with allegations for which the statute of limitations had expired.

Firebaugh police are investigating two accusations against Harrison. It was unclear what the status of that investigation was Friday. A woman who answered the phone Friday said no officer was available to speak with a reporter.

Stacey Shepard can be reached at 661-395-7417.

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