Very Embarrassing, and Very Painful
Kern County District Attorney, Bakersfield Police, Say They Don't Know If They Investigated a Claim of Sexual Abuse against Bishop Tod Brown

California Catholic Daily
September 21, 2007

What has been called an unsubstantiated claim of sexual abuse against Orange's Bishop Tod Brown may never have been investigated by law enforcement, according to recent press reports.

During his Sept. 10 deposition for a sexual abuse lawsuit against his diocese, Brown admitted that he had had an accusation of sexual abuse brought against him in 1997. The accuser, Scott Hicks of Fresno, claimed that in 1965 then-Father Brown had molested him three times at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in Bakersfield.

During his deposition, Brown admitted that he never informed the papal nuncio's office of the allegation (the correct protocol for accused bishops), and that he kept the accusation private because, said Brown, "it was very embarrassing, and very painful." However, he told plaintiff's attorney John Manly that he decided not to go public with the accusation because it "was judged not to be credible." When pressed as to who had reached that conclusion, Brown replied, "The investigation conducted by the Diocese of Fresno."

The Diocese of Fresno was informed of the allegation in July 1997, after Hicks, now 54, decided to come forward. Hicks said he had remembered the molestation during therapy in 1990. Fresno Bishop John Steinbock told Brown that, after the diocese investigated the claim, he had sent Brown's file, as well as the files of all other accused priests in the diocese of Fresno, to the Kern County district attorney. Hicks received a letter from the diocese's Human Resources director, R. Patrick Gordon, in Sept. 1997, stating, "Regarding Father Brown, no records of inappropriate behavior have been found from the time of his ordination to the present day with the exceptions of your statements in your July 1997 letter."

Kern County District Attorney Edward Jagels told the Sept. 15 Los Angeles Times that he vaguely remembered his office reviewing the case and determining that it amounted to "a completely uncorroborated allegation." Jagels said his office did not interview Hicks because it probably passed the case on to the Bakersfield Police Department, which would have conducted all interviews.

However, Bakersfield police Sergeant Greg Terry told the Sept. 19 Orange County Register that the Bakersfield police had no record of any investigation in the Hicks case. Accordig to Terry, if the police had investigated the case, they would have interviewed the victim. Hicks says that he was never interviewed by police. Neither was Bishop Brown.

Hicks told the Register that he was "surprised and angry" that the police didn't investigate his claim, even though he didn't go directly to the police himself. "Law enforcement," he said, "should try to get both sides."

So what happened? According to Terry, "Either the investigation was never done or one was done but it was unsubstantiated."

Jagels could only speculate that the police may have stopped the investigation to see if prosecutors could try a case dating from 1965. He said he could not remember the Bakersfield police ever telling him the accusation was unfounded.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.