BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Former Bakersfield priest Craig Harrison has settled his lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, according to appellate court documents showing he has dropped his appeal more than a year after a Fresno judge dismissed the suit.
According to the 5th District Court of Appeal, Harrison attorney Herb Fox filed notice last month that a settlement had been reached, and on Monday the court dismissed the appeal. The final entry says “case complete.”
Fox and Craig Edmonston, both representing Harrison, could not immediately be reached for comment. Messages left for Marty Oller, an attorney representing the diocese, and diocese spokesman Chandler Marquez were not immediately returned Monday afternoon.
Harrison in 2019 became the subject of criminal investigations in Bakersfield, Fresno and Merced over alleged misconduct. Authorities in each location declined to file criminal charges due to the statute of limitations having expired or insufficient evidence.
In February 2020, Harrison filed a defamation lawsuit based on statements made by a diocese spokeswoman in a May 2019 article with Bay Area station KQED.
Former spokeswoman Teresa Dominguez told the station she believed a man who first reported sexual abuse allegations against Harrison decades ago.
“I personally expressed my concern for him; told him that I believed him, and apologized for the pain this matter has caused him. I told him that I will support him and be an advocate for him in any way I can,” Dominguez said in an emailed statement published in the report.
Harrison, former pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church, argued Dominguez’s statements amounted to repeating defamatory allegations from years ago. He said she endorsed the alleged victim’s claims he was a child molester and abuser, court documents said.
The diocese filed a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing the statements were free speech protected under the First Amendment.
Fresno Superior Court Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan, in dismissing the suit in May 2021, said Dominguez’s statements were made in connection with a matter of public interest, were statements of opinion rather than of fact and that Dominguez “did not recite any allegations from anyone.”
“The article published on 5/19/19 by KQED, which reported Dominguez’s above statements, never identified what Dominguez was stating she believed,” Kapetan said in her ruling. “There is no indication that at the meeting (the accuser) detailed or even made any allegations against plaintiff. There is no clarity at all about what Dominguez was saying she believed.”
Harrison has two other suits pending, one against a former Catholic monk who went public with allegations, and a third against the organization Roman Catholic Faithful and its founder Stephen Brady for publishing what he called “false, malicious and reckless accusations.”
Harrison has maintained his innocence but resigned early last year after he said it was clear the diocese would no longer allow him to perform the duties of a priest.