O'Brien's Trial in Hit-and-Run Fatality Is Delayed

By Joseph A. Reaves
The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
October 10, 2003

A judge Friday delayed until Jan. 12 the trial of resigned Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien in the fatal hit-and-run of a pedestrian.

Maricopa Country Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Gerst granted the eight-week delay to give attorneys for both sides more time to interview witnesses and file a series of motions.

O'Brien had been scheduled to stand trial Nov. 17, but his attorney, Tom Henze, argued that date only left 20 working days to interview 30 prospective witnesses.

Prosecutor Tom Novitsky told Gerst the case against O'Brien was "really quite a simple case" and he was ready to go to trial, but agreed to the delay.

O'Brien, 67, was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident in June. Investigators said he was trying to have the windshield of his car repaired a day and a half after a pedestrian was stuck and killed near the intersection of Glendale and 19th Avenue in north-central Phoenix.

The pedestian, Jim L. Reed, was jaywalking and an autopsy showed he was intoxicated.

O'Brien told authorities he thought he hit an animal or that someone threw a rock at his windshield and he was afraid to stop because he was at the center of a highly publicized sex-abuse scandal at the time.

Reed's death, and O'Brien's arrest, came just two weeks after the bishop signed an agreement with the county attorney's office that granted him immunity from prosecution for obstructing justice in return for an acknowledgement he put children of the Phoenix Diocese at risk by covering up for priests who were accused of sexual abuse.

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