Letter from SNAP To CA AG Becerra Regarding Witness Intimidation and Harassment
Dear Attorney General Becerra:
Attached is a letter SNAP just sent to the Bishop of Fresno. As you will read, a victim and witness to sexual assault by a current priest, Msgr. Craig Harrison, is being sued, harassed and threatened by the suspended clergyman. The harassment is escalating and we hope that your office can do something to intervene.
On October 1, Msgr. Harrison or his attorney, Kyle Humphrey, posted a “call to action” on the priest’s personal Facebook page to, in essence, call on the priest's supporters to stalk Br. Justin Gilligan. In his post the monsignor wrote that Br. Justin “is currently AWOL” from his monastery, a statement meant to make it seem as if Br. Justin is running from justice when he is, in fact, a monk in good standing with his abbot. Br. Justin has only become public in this situation due to his role as a witness. To us, these are obvious intimidation tactics that have led to threats on Br. Justin’s life and his receiving threatening messages and voicemails. An example is attached with this letter.
We are alarmed and concerned for Br. Justin’s personal safety. We view these tactics by Msgr. Harrison as an effort to silence a victim and a witness. These kinds of tactics seem designed to have a chilling effect and to send a message to any and all other victims, witnesses and whistle-blowers that they too will be sued, harassed and otherwise pressured if they speak up about Msgr. Harrison. In this way, Br. Justin’s public example is being used as a cudgel by the man he was called to provide witness against, a man who has now been accused by at least five men dating back to 1988.
Br. Justin reported what he alleges was abuse of minors as late as 2013. He himself reported being assaulted by Msgr. Harrison in 2013. He originally pledged not to bring charges himself against Msgr. Harrison because Br. Justin's interest was in protecting the minors he saw in the priest’s company. He felt he was more credible as a witness by not bringing charges himself. Whether or not that stance changes, as a witness Br. Justin deserves protection.
We ask that you bring to this issue whatever tools you have, whether that be protection for Br. Justin, forensic tools to discover the source of the threatening call and caller, or other resources at your office’s disposal. Br. Justin is a monk who has taken a vow of poverty. He has no financial resources to protect himself. He also is not sophisticated in knowing how to navigate our legal system to gain the protections he deserves. This man needs the help of experts like those in your office.
Br. Justin has a right to peace and safety. We ask that you intervene in whatever fashion is necessary to ensure that he is afforded access to them, and that those who would seek to deny these rights are stopped.
Oakland Leader, SNAP
San Francisco Leader
Survivor Support Coordinator, SNAP
Northern California Leader, SNAP
Executive Director, SNAP