.-Yesterday afternoon witnessed the first time that a judge begancriminal contempt-of-court proceedings against a U.S. Catholic bishop.The hearing against Bishop Tod Brown of the Diocese of Orange Countycould result in a sentence ranging from a verbal warning to jail time.
On Tuesday, Bishop Brown waived his arraignment for violating acourt order, which is the equivalent of him entering a plea of notguilty.
The bishop caused Judge Gail Andler to open a contempt of courthearing by sending Monsignor John Urell out of the country to receivemedical treatment, before he had finished completing his testimony in asexual abuse lawsuit.
The attorneys of the plaintiff in the sexual abuse case assertedthat Bishop Brown sent Msgr. Urell, who was responsible for handlingdiocesan sexual abuse allegations, to Canada for psychologicaltreatment before he could conclude his deposition.
The bishop stated that while he knew Msgr. Urell would be calledback for further deposition, the treatment center in Canada, whichfocuses on care of the clergy, could admit Urell immediately.
Bishop Brown decided to send Urell because he broke down during a deposition with the plaintiff’s attorneys.
"When Msgr. Urell was there for half a day, he couldn't take itbecause he was too upset about having to testify about hiding all theseallegations," Venus Soltan, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys said incourt. "This is plain and simply hiding the facts."
Callahan disagreed emphasizing there was not a court order in effectwhen Urell went to Canada, and that he also did not know anything aboutthe current sexual abuse case in question.
Superior Court Judge Gail Andler listened to the opening statementsin Bishop Brown’s contempt of court case before postponing the hearinguntil December 3 and ordering a subpoena on Urell until the same date.
Also being heard that day is a motion filed by Callahan to dismiss the contempt matter altogether.
"I was disappointed that the judge didn't rule. We were hoping thatthe bishop would have the opportunity to exonerate himself by tellingthe truth but he didn't get the opportunity," Callahan said.
John Manly, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said outside court thathe was pleased the judge had allowed the contempt hearing to go forwardand that he intends to call Urell in to complete his testimony on Dec.3.
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