Testimony to Begin in Hit-and-Run Trial of Catholic Bishop

Tucson Citizen [Phoenix AZ]
January 19, 2004

PHOENIX - Testimony was scheduled to begin Tuesday in the hit-and-run trial of Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien.

A panel of eight jurors and four alternates were selected Friday in a trial that Judge Stephen Gerst of Maricopa County Superior Court said could last a month.

O'Brien, who led the Phoenix diocese's nearly 480,000 Catholics for more than 20 years, resigned days after he was charged with leaving the scene of a June 14 car accident that killed Jim Reed.

Police said Reed, a 43-year-old carpenter and father of two, had been drinking and was jaywalking.

O'Brien, 68, told police he thought he had hit a dog or a cat or someone had thrown a rock at his car.

If convicted, O'Brien's sentence could range from probation to nearly four years in prison.

The accident came during a troubled period for the Phoenix diocese.

Two weeks earlier, prosecutors announced that O'Brien had signed an immunity deal to spare him an indictment on obstruction charges for protecting priests accused of child molestation.

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