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By Anabelle Garay
Guardian [Phoenix AZ]
February 10, 2004

PHOENIX (AP) - Bishop Thomas O'Brien conceded during his hit-and-run trial Tuesday that he asked about getting his windshield fixed even though he knew police were investigating whether the car had been involved in a deadly accident.

"I was interested in getting the windshield fixed at some time," the Roman Catholic clergyman said in his second day on the witness stand. "There is no way I would have gotten that windshield fixed that day."

A diocesan secretary testified earlier that O'Brien called her about the windshield, which was smashed when O'Brien's car hit a pedestrian, the Monday after the weekend accident. She said she thought O'Brien wanted it fixed the same day.

But O'Brien said the secretary might have misunderstood him.

The bishop has said he initially thought has car had been hit by a rock or a dog. Prosecutors have argued that O'Brien knew or should have known that he hit a pedestrian on the night of June 14.

The 68-year-old bishop is accused of leaving the scene of an accident that killed Jim Reed. If convicted, O'Brien could get nearly four years in prison.

His arrest ended his 21-year career as head of the Phoenix Diocese. The accident occurred less than two weeks after prosecutors announced O'Brien had struck a deal to avoid indictment on obstruction charges for protecting child-molesting priests.

The bishop was told by a diocesan official, Monsignor Dale Fushek, the day after the accident that police were concerned the car might have been involved in a fatal accident, but O'Brien did not speak to police until the next day, Monday.

Under cross-examination, O'Brien was asked why he did not call police after he learned officers were investigating a fatal accident.

"All this time had elapsed and police had still not contacted me," he said. "That led me to believe what happened Saturday night did not involve me."

Prosecutor Mitch Rand pointed out that O'Brien did not answer his phone Sunday night or immediately answer his door for police on Monday morning. O'Brien said he did not answer the phone because he was in his home chapel on Sunday night, and on Monday morning, he thought the officers, who were not in uniform, were reporters.

O'Brien said that after he learned of the fatal accident, he went into a room with his assistant and cried.

"There were certainly feelings of regret, a deep profound sense of sorrow and sadness that I was possibly involved in the death of this individual," he said.


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