When Joe Biden announced on Tuesday, Aug. 11, he had chosen Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate, he described Harris as a “fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants.” Not so, say the victims of sexual abuse by the clergy in San Francisco.
The victims and their attorneys have claimed Harris remained silent on sex abuse claims in the Catholic church, and she failed to prosecute any of the priests accused of sexual molestation.
When Harris was San Francisco’s district attorney, “She did nothing,” said Joey Piscitelli, today the Northern California spokesman for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Piscitelli was upset when Harris first emerged as a contender for the presidential nomination. Earlier on, he had contacted Harris to inform her that a priest who had formerly molested him was still in ministry at the local Catholic cathedral, and she had not replied to him. Then five years later, he wrote to her again, insisting she release records on abuse cases related to the clergy, in order to help other victims who were filing lawsuits. Again he was ignored, said Piscitelli.
Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute, and a Brietbart senior news contributor observed in his book titled “Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America’s Progressive Elite,” that during Harris’s 13-year tenure as district attorney and then attorney general, she failed to prosecute even one case of priest sexual abuse.
However, during that same time period, there were at least 50 major cities bringing charges against priests for sexual abuse. At the same time Harris failed to pursue prosecution of cases of priest sexual abuse, her office “would strangely hide vital records on abuses that had occurred,” Schweizer revealed.
Harris had no particular ties to the Catholic Church or Catholic organizations, but the money still came in large, unprecedented sums. Lawyer Joseph Russoniello represented the church on a wide variety of issues, including the handling of the church abuse scandal. He served on the Catholic Church’s National Review Board (NRB) of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The purpose of the NRB was to review Catholic Church abuse cases. Russoniello was also a partner in the San Francisco law firm Cooley Godward. Russoniello donated the maximum amount by law to her campaign, $1,250, and his law firm added another $2,250. He also sat on Harris’s advisory council when she was San Francisco, district attorney. Another law firm, Bingham McCutcheon, which handled legal matters for the archdiocese concerning Catholic Charities, donated $2,825, the maximum allowed. Curiously, Bingham McCutcheon had only donated to two other candidates running for office in San Francisco before, for a total of $650. As with Russoniello, their support was unusual.
A vast number of voters in the city and the state are Catholic, and account for approximately 25 percent of the population in the San Francisco region and across California, reported The Associate Press.
“There’s a potential political risk if you move aggressively against the church,” said Michael Meadows, a Bay Area attorney who has represented clergy abuse victims. “I just don’t think she was willing to take it.”
Harris refused to release church files on abuse cases that had been accumulated by her predecessor, Terence Hallinan, who had been actively pursuing an investigation into the clergy of the Archdiocese of San Francisco accused of sexual abuse.
“It would be virtually impossible to release records without compromising the identity of the victims,” two of Harris’s top aides wrote in a joint letter.
“What she was saying was utter nonsense,” said Meadows. “All she had to do was redact any identifying information.”
Lawyers for some of the victims also complained about Harris’s office refusing to help them with their cases, whereas other attorneys were being compliant.
“Of all the DAs in the Bay Area, she’s the only one who wouldn’t cooperate with us,” said Rick Simons, an attorney who was the court-appointed coordinator for clergy abuse cases filed in Northern California, as well as Piscitelli’s personal lawyer, reported The Associated Press.
Piscitelli was successful in a civil suit against the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Catholic religious order that employed his abuser, the Rev. Stephen Whelan, after a jury trial. An appeal was lodged, but the verdict was upheld two years later.
Harris was elected California attorney general in 2010, and she continued to avoid standing up for victims of abuse by the Catholic Church, said Piscitelli and others, reported The Associated Press.
The present state attorney general, Xavier Becerra has been addressing the abuse problem more aggressively.
Anne Barret Doyle, co-director of the advocacy group BishopAccountability.org, attended the meeting at the attorney general’s office with Piscitelli and other SNAP members. “The current attorney general is showing an awareness of the ongoing problem of clergy sexual abuse in California that Kamala Harris didn’t exhibit at all,” she said.