Valley Catholic priest accused of abuse will not face charges

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Catholic priest accused of abuse by people across the Valley will not face criminal charges in the last active investigation.

The Fresno County district attorney's office released a statement late Friday afternoon announcing they will not file a sex abuse case against Monsignor Craig Harrison, despite a police report filed by a man in Firebaugh deemed credible by their investigators.

Police in Bakersfield and Merced have previously announced they would not pursue charges against Harrison for abuse reports in their jurisdictions.

Both Fresno County prosecutors and Merced police mentioned the statute of limitations as an issue with their investigations.

The state only allows prosecutors to file most sex abuse cases until the victim turns 40 years old unless there's DNA evidence or "independent corroborating evidence."

The man accusing Harrison of abuse during his time at St. Joseph's in Firebaugh is older than 40. The man in Merced was 46 when he reported the abuse last year.

Bakersfield police also mentioned a lack of independent corroborating evidence, but the victim was 16 to 17 years old and an altar boy in the 1990s.

The victim told police he was alone with the pastor when Harrison inappropriately touched him three times. At the time of the alleged misconduct, Monsignor Harrison was a priest.

The Diocese of Fresno has not returned our request for a comment, but they had put Harrison on leave while the investigations played out.

Harrison defended himself on social media after the Firebaugh and Merced accusations came out last year.

"I will vigorously defend my honor from these allegations and look forward to my good name being cleared," he posted to Facebook.

California legislators have lifted the statute of limitations for sex abuse victims to file civil lawsuits for three years, which has led to several new lawsuits alleging older abuse, including one against a Reedley priest.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.