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Fresno diocese releases list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse

A cross is reflected on a building
“Some members of the family — priests, deacons, and [others] in positions of trust and leadership — have behaved badly,” Bishop Joseph V. Brennan said in a statement.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Aug. 10. I’m Justin Ray.

For more than two years, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno has been promising to release a list of priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.

Well, it finally happened. The list was recently posted online and includes the names of more than 60 clergy members accused of misconduct against minors and young adults. In a list of frequently asked questions, the diocese says it was released “in the interest of further transparency, accountability and responding pastorally to victim survivors the Diocese of Fresno.”

“Some members of the family — priests, deacons and [others] in positions of trust and leadership — have behaved badly,” Bishop Joseph V. Brennan said in a statement posted on the Diocese of Fresno’s website. “That is putting it mildly. Let’s face it, acts of abuse upon the innocent and vulnerable are truly evil, plain and simple. The pain, suffering, betrayal and loss of innocence felt by many victims lasts a lifetime.”

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But to understand the whole situation, we need to back up a bit. The Diocese of Fresno includes 87 parishes in eight counties (Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Kern, Inyo, Madera, Merced and Mariposa). It serves an estimated 1.2 million Catholics.

The Fresno diocese is one of the last in California to make a list of credibly accused priests available to the public, according to the Fresno Bee. Almost all dioceses in the state released lists in 2018 and 2019.

“This list is not a product of the diocese of Fresno suddenly being altruistic or even doing the right thing. It’s a product of the pressure that’s been placed on them by the survivors, by the public outcry and by the lawsuits against them,” attorney Mike Reck of Jeff Anderson & Associates told The Times. The Minnesota-based law firm has been representing victims of sexual abuse nationwide, including those who have accused Fresno diocese priests.

When asked about the timing, the diocese pointed to a release that calls the list “the culmination of two years of work that began in May of 2019.” The diocese also highlighted Brennan’s statement. In it, he says that it was his intention to release the list last year during Lent, the period of 40 days that comes before Easter.

“Obviously, that did not happen but now is the time during which our local church will be touched by its own full measure of penitence and penance. When all is said and done, brothers and sisters, it is never too late to do the right thing,” Brennan said in the statement.

Victims have been given power thanks to Assembly Bill 218, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019. It extended the statute of limitations for reporting childhood sexual assault from the time a victim is age 26 to age 40. The bill also provides a window of three years for the revival of past claims that might have expired due to the statute of limitations.

“For a survivor, what that says is: This is important. Your story matters and you have a chance for justice,” Reck says about the bill. “They still have to prove their case, but at least they get in the courthouse door.”

What happens next? After victims see the list, they may start reviewing their options.

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“Advocates and attorneys like our office will start to receive calls that say one of two things; either ... ‘my perpetrator’s on this list, I can’t believe it. I thought I was the only one. What rights do I have?’” Reck says. “The other call we get are from survivors who say, ‘I heard about this list and I went on the internet and my perpetrator is not on there. It’s so painful. What can I do? Is this guy still hurting kids? How do I get his name out there?’”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California.

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

L.A. STORIES

Residents displaced by the LAPD fireworks explosion feel angry, alone, ignored. More than a month after the LAPD blew up the 700 block of East 27th Street while trying to safely detonate a cache of illegal fireworks, displaced families say they are still struggling to piece their lives back together. Some complain of injuries suffered in the blast. Others have lost work. “It is a pretty dire situation.” Los Angeles Times

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The 82-year-old TikTok sensation and her secret weapon. Annie Korzen is a judicious dropper of the F-bomb on her TikTok channel, which in less than four months has claimed more than 223,000 followers and 2.2 million likes. The professional storyteller and television actress favors colorful language as much as colorful clothing, accessories, artwork, furniture and friends. Her personal flair and contrarian bent help explain her popularity on a social media platform that champions dancing babies and fashion tutorials, but her secret weapon, she says, is her 30-year-old bestie, Mackenzie Morrison. Los Angeles Times

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Actress Annie Korzen, left, and her friend Mackenzie Morrison pose for a portrait at Korzen’s Los Angeles home.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Newsom wants voters to ignore the recall ballot’s second question. They don’t have to. Newsom and prominent Democrats have been communicating to voters how to fill out the part of the ballot that keeps him in office. But they haven’t been explaining that voters also have the right to select a potential replacement. “Leave it blank,” Nathan Click, an advisor to Newsom, said about the replacement election. That message, while simple, is misleading. Los Angeles Times

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CRIME AND COURTS

‘Frivolous lawsuits intentionally targeting small businesses.’ Dozens of Alameda County small businesses have received letters from law firms accusing them of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. San Francisco Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin announced a criminal probe into the lawsuits. “We have received reports of frivolous lawsuits intentionally targeting small businesses in Chinatown — often owned by monolingual immigrants — that attempt to undermine the ADA by using it to extort settlements rather than vindicating disability rights,” Boudin said. East Bay Times

The California attorney general’s office filed charges Monday against a Los Angeles police officer who shot and killed a mentally disabled man during an off-duty confrontation at a Costco store in 2019. Salvador Sanchez, 32, was arrested in Riverside County on Monday and charged with voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a firearm, according to the criminal complaint. Sanchez’s attorney, David Winslow, did not immediately return calls for comment. Los Angeles Times

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

A public service video from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department about the dangers of fentanyl has sparked a backlash. The video shows a deputy allegedly overdosing after brief exposure. There’s just one problem. The risks of so-called passive exposure to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are overblown, according to interviews with medical experts and scientific studies: “I’m concerned that the officers themselves are being psychologically harmed.” Los Angeles Times

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A ‘good soul’ passes on. I recently told you about the man who died after being hit by lightning. The Fresno Bee talked to the people who were there during Nicholas Torchia’s last moments. A pastor and his friend, who ran for help, reached Torchia within 20 seconds of the lightning strike. The pastor, Andy Cornett, took Torchia’s hand and assured him they were getting help. “He thanked me and asked me to straighten out his legs,” Cornett told his family. “That was the last he spoke.” Fresno Bee

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

San Francisco tamale institution gets moment in the spotlight. Alicia Villanueva, owner of Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas in San Francisco, started out selling her tamales door-to-door more than a decade ago, determined to make the business work to care for her family. She has since linked up with an incubator cultivating food entrepreneurs. That led to Villanueva taking her business to new heights. Now, she’s added online retail sales of her tamales and salsa via Williams-Sonoma, and is exploring additional outlets. Next City

A woman drove off a cliff after a person mistakenly opened her door, Santa Cruz police said. The woman was sitting in her parked car when a person opened her door, thinking they were entering the passenger seat of their car, which was a similar model and color. The cars were parked next to each other and authorities said the person doesn’t see well at night. Police said this was truly an accident. Los Angeles Times

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: 86. San Diego: 77. San Francisco: A person posted a video on Reddit a few weeks ago of people riding trash bins in San Francisco. Um, sup with that. I asked police about it. I’ll let you know if they reply. 69. San Jose: 84. Fresno: 104. Sacramento: 101.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Sharon Berke:

In 1982, I took a teaching job in Los Angeles, lured away from NYC by a promise of sunshine and romance. What surprised me most was the politeness of the drivers on the streets of Santa Monica, my new home. As I approached a crosswalk, cars would stop cautiously and wave me through. Proud to be laid back and the opposite of their East Coast counterparts, my Santa Monica neighbors eschewed any New York influence. The decades have changed the city, and so have the people.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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