Motion granted for change of venue in Craig Harrison lawsuit against Diocese of Fresno

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Superior Court judge on Thursday granted a change of venue motion filed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, which is being sued for defamation by Monsignor Craig Harrison.

The case will be heard in Fresno County Superior Court. A date for the next hearing had not been scheduled.

“Of course we opposed (the motion) because we have other cases going here with similar issues, but it doesn’t come as a surprise,” Kyle J. Humphrey, one of Harrison’s attorneys, said afterward.

Humphrey said the case could have been held in Kern if the diocese hadn’t objected, but the law allows a change of venue for the case to be heard where the diocese is situated.

The lawsuit is based on what Harrison said were defamatory statements made by then-Diocese spokeswoman Teresa Dominguez on behalf of the Diocese in a May 2019 article on KQED. Dominguez said that she believed a man who had first reported sexual abuse allegations against Harrison decades ago.

Harrison was the subject of law enforcement investigations in three cities last following sexual abuse allegations. He has been on leave as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church since the allegations first surfaced in April of last year.

The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office announced it February it would not file sexual assault charges against Harrison because the statute of limitations had expired. Investigations in Bakersfield and Merced also ended without charges being brought against the priest.

Harrison has filed two other defamation lawsuits relating to statements made about the sexual abuse allegations, one against a Catholic monk who went public with allegations against Harrison, the other against the organization Roman Catholic Faithful and its founder Stephen Brady. Both of those suits are still scheduled to be heard in Kern County.

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