BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Monsignor Craig Harrison is putting pressure on some of his accusers, taking them to court in an all-out attempt to clear his name.
Nearly a month since Bakersfield Police ended their investigation into local accusations of sexual assault against Monsignor Craig Harrison, now Harrison is suing a group called The Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc., and its leader, Stephen Brady.
Brady is an outspoken defender of victims of sexual misconduct by leaders in the Catholic church, and traveled to Bakersfield in May to hold a news conference in support of Harrison's accusers.
"Accusations are easy to make, but they're difficult to defend. And I've been defamed, I've been slandered, libeled, and irreparably harmed by false accusers and those supporting them," Harrison said July 25, at his first news conference since being placed on administrative leave in late April.
On August 6, he filed a civil law suit in Kern County Superior Court against Stephen Brady, the president and founder of RCF, an Illinois-based website, claiming to be a non-profit dedicated to holding church leaders accountable for wrongdoing.
The law suit claims Brady's web site, and Brady himself, made false, defamatory claims about Harrison, who is now seeking damages for "emotional distress," and well as "medical bills, loss of income, and impairment of earning capacity."
Harrison is still on administrative leave from St. Francis Church in Bakersfield.
Brady fired back, posting a new home page on his website claiming RCF is "under attack." He writes that he was telling the truth about Harrison, and urges supporters to donate via PayPal to support his legal fight.
"This is a frivolous lawsuit designed to attack and chill protected First Amendment activity. My clients, Stephen Brady and Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc., pursued a legitimate news story involving credible allegations of sexual abuse by Msgr. Craig Harrison. There’s overwhelming evidence that my clients’ statements were true, which is a complete defense to the plaintiff’s claim for defamation. We’re confident that the lawsuit will be dismissed under California’s Anti-SLAPP statute and that the plaintiff will ultimately be responsible for my clients’ attorneys’ fees and costs," Paul Jonna, Brady's attorney, said in a statement sent to Eyewitness News.