Phoenix Bishop Arrested in Hit and Run
Phoenix's Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien Arrested in Fatal Hit-And-Run Accident

ABC News [Phoenix AZ]
Downloaded June 16, 2003

PHOENIX June 16 -

The Roman Catholic bishop of Phoenix was arrested Monday in a deadly hit-and-run accident after police traced a license plate number to his car and found the windshield caved in.

Bishop Thomas O'Brien, 67, was driven away in an unmarked detective's car. Police said he would be booked on a charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Sgt. Laurie Williams said he was not handcuffed.

The case involves an accident on Saturday night in which 43-year-old Jim Reed was struck by two cars while crossing a street in the middle of the block. Both cars drove off.

The bishop "does admit that he was driving the vehicle and in the area at the time," Williams said.

Earlier this month, it was announced that O'Brien relinquished some of his authority in an unprecedented agreement with prosecutors that spared him from indictment on obstruction charges for protecting child-molesting priests.

In the hit-and-run case, witnesses gave police a partial license plate number from the first car, which led investigators to the diocese, Williams said. The diocese told the police that it was O'Brien's car, she said.

Police went to the bishop's home with a search warrant and examined the car. The tan Buick's windshield was caved in on the passenger's side, Wiliams said. The warrant called for any evidence of blood, hair or glass samples, Williams said.

"We believe his vehicle was involved in an accident," she said.

O'Brien's attorney did not immediately return a call for comment.

In a statement, Msgr. Richard Moyer, the diocese's chief of staff, said the diocese would cooperate with the investigation.

"I sincerely regret reports I have received about Bishop O'Brien being involved in a fatal accident," Moyer said. "The sympathy of all of us in the Diocese of Phoenix as well as our prayerful support goes out to the victim's family."

Williams said the bishop had told police he was returning home after a Mass on Saturday night. Police had no information on the second car.

O'Brien has been the spiritual leader of 430,000 Catholics in Arizona since 1981.

In the agreement with prosecutors earlier this month, O'Brien admitted that he allowed priests to work with minors after he knew of sexual misconduct allegations against them and that he transferred them to ministries without telling their new supervisors.

Under the deal, O'Brien agreed among other things to appoint the church equivalent of a chief of staff to supervise the enforcement of the church's sexual misconduct policies.


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