Hit-and-run bishop convicted

A disgraced US Roman Catholic bishop was found guilty of hitting a pedestrian with his car and leaving the victim to die.

    O'Brien: I kept going

    A 12-person jury in the Arizona capital of Phoenix returned its unanimous hit-and-run verdict against the city's former Catholic bishop Thomas O'Brien at the end of a five-week trial.
      
    The bishop may now face up to three years and nine months in prison when he is sentenced in 30 days time.
      
    O'Brien hit carpenter Jim Lee Reed as he crossed the street while drunk early on 14 June last year but failed to stop – despite a smashed windscreen.
      
    The crash ended the cleric's 21-year career, though it was not his first brush with law.

    Last year the bishop negotiated a deal giving him immunity from prosecution on charges of obstructing justice by protecting priests accused of child molestation.
      
    Hit and run case

    O'Brien insisted he thought he had struck a dog or that a rock had been thrown at his car. 
      

    "He knows the police are looking for him. He knows a man is dead. Not only does he make no calls, he takes no calls... He won't answer the door... If his housekeeper hadn't answered the door, the
    police might still be knocking." 

    Anthony Novitsky,
    Chief prosecutor

    But jurors accepted the prosecution argument that the cleric knew he had hit a human being because of the loud noise and shattered windscreen after the impact.
      
    Family members of both hit-and-run victim Reed and the bishop wept when the verdict was read to the packed courtroom, but the bishop did not react to the decision.
      
    Police arrested him two days after the collision, relieving the 480,000-member Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix of its criminal head.
      
    Prosecutors said the cleric failed to contact police even when he knew he was being sought in connection with the crime.
      
    Holy defence
      
    O'Brien last week expressed remorse over the death of Reed but denied knowing he had struck a human being.
      
    "I just felt terrible about this," he told a packed courtroom during his trial in his first public comments on the accident that ended his career.
      
    The former bishop said he never saw what hit his windscreen, and that he never thought about stopping because he was only a few miles from home.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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