Brown abuse claim a mystery
Bakersfield police do not know if they investigated molestation charge.
Bakersfield police may never have investigated an old claim thatnow-Bishop Tod Brown of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange molested aboy 42 years ago.
Bakersfield Police Sgt. Greg Terry said Tuesdaya former lieutenant in charge of the sex-crimes unit in 1997 – aroundthe time when church officials say the accusation was reported to theKern County District Attorney – did not recall getting the case fromprosecutors. Nor did police have paperwork that shows if aninvestigation was ever done.
“It's either the investigation was never done or one was done but it was unsubstantiated,'' Terry said.
Brown,the highest-ranking Catholic official in Orange County, testified lastweek that he was told by the Diocese of Fresno in 1997 that they justreceived a claim alleging Brown abused a boy at Our Lady of PerpetualHelp church in Bakersfield in 1965. Brown, who used to be a priest inBakersfield, denies the claim.
Brown's unsealed testimony,which came out as part of an ongoing sex-abuse lawsuit at Mater DeiHigh School, sparked protests by clergy-abuse victims and advocates.They said Brown should have disclosed the accusation earlier. Brownsaid he did not reveal the allegation because it was untrue.
Fresnodiocese officials also backed Brown, saying last week the allegationshad “absolutely no factual or credible basis.” They also said theyforwarded the complaint to the Kern County District Attorney's officesometime after July 1997.
Kern County District Attorney Edward R.Jagels said he has a “faint recollection” that church officials gavehim the case. He also said he forwarded the case to the BakersfieldPolice Department for investigation.
What happened next is a mystery.
Bakersfieldpolice have no record of the purported police investigation. If theydid one, Terry said, they would have interviewed the alleged victim.
Brown'saccuser, Scott C. Hicks, 54, who lives in Fresno, said he was neverinterviewed by police. Neither was Brown, according to his deposition.
Hicks-- who is being represented by the same lawyers suing the church forthe former Mater Dei student -- said Tuesday he was “surprised andangry” that police may not have fully investigated his claim. He neverwent to police himself, saying he decided to go straight to the church.
“Law enforcement should try to get both sides,'' he said.
Jagelson Tuesday speculated Bakersfield police may have halted theinvestigation to see if prosecutors would even be able to file chargesagainst the decades-old allegation. But he reiterated did not recallpolice ever coming back to tell him the accusation was unfounded.
LaurieLevenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles,said prosecutors could not have filed charges in 1997 because it wastoo late.
“It doesn't surprise me if this case fell through the cracks,” Levenson said.
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