BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Superior Court judge has ruled that Monsignor Craig Harrison is not a public figure and that a defamation lawsuit the priest has filed in connection with comments made during a May press conference may proceed.
The court also found that evidence was presented indicating Stephen Brady, founder of Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc., made inaccurate comments about Harrison — including allegations of sexual abuse and corruption — that went beyond “neutral” and “disinterested” reporting, according to court documents.
“Defendants’ motion allege that plaintiff Craig Harrison’s complaint was filed to chill their First Amendment rights of free speech and to silence and censor witnesses,” Harrison attorneys Craig Edmonston and Kyle J. Humphrey said in a news release.
Edmonston argued the purpose of the lawsuit was to hold Brady and Roman Catholic Faithful accountable for their “lurid and salacious” statements.
“Harrison’s attorneys were not surprised with the court’s ruling based on the reckless and salacious nature of the statements made by Brady and RCF,” the release said.
Brady’s attorney, Paul M. Jonna, said the court’s ruling is incorrect and he’s deciding whether to file an appeal.
“I told the court that if Craig Harrison is not a public figure in the town of Bakersfield, then nobody is,” jonna said.
The suit seeks unspecified damages.
The Bakersfield and Merced police departments have closed investigations into alleged sexual misconduct by Harrison and announced they were not seeking charges due to insufficient evidence and the statute of limitations having expired.
An investigation by Firebaugh police is ongoing.