Monday, June 16, 2003

More Trouble for Bishop O'Brien

Bishop allegedly involved in fatal hit-and-run accident


PHOENIX -- Bishop Thomas O'Brien, already embroiled in a sex abuse scandal that accuses him of covering up allegations involving priests, was reportedly involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident.

The accident reportedly involved a pedestrian and two cars near 19th and Glendale avenues around 8:36 p.m. Saturday. Jim Reed, 43, died in the accident.

Bishop Thomas O'Brien opens his car door for Phoenix police investigators.
Phoenix police are reportedly serving search warrants Monday at O'Brien's home near First and Northern avenues. O'Brien was reportedly at his home when police arrived.

Sources tell NEWS CHANNEL 3 that O'Brien was behind the wheel when the accident occurred.

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Lauri Williams told NEWS CHANNEL 3 that witnesses provided police with a license plate number, leading them to O'Brien's home.

Williams said the bishop is talking to investigators and has been cooperative. Williams added that the bishop has remained calm.

According to Williams, the bishop has told investigators that he was driving in the area Saturday night and that he is the only one who drives the car.

Williams said there is damage to the front right side of the bishop's car and said investigators believe the car was involved in Saturday night's accident.

The accident occurred when a man was crossing a west Phoenix street in midblock and was struck by an eastbound vehicle, Williams said. A second vehicle also struck the man. Williams said both drivers failed to stop.

Williams said the Phoenix Police Department is working with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

The bishop had reportedly just finished conducting confirmation services Saturday night and was on his way to sister's house.

There has been no comment from the bishop.

Victim's family "greatly saddened"

Janice Acothley, the victim's sister, told NEWS CHANNEL 3 Monday that her family is "deeply and greatly saddened by our loss."

Phoenix police investigators stand outside the home of Phoenix Bishop Thomas O'Brien.
Acothley said she "can't believe that a bishop would do this" and said her family wants "justice to be served."

Acothley said her brother, the oldest of nine siblings and the father of four children, was not in a crosswalk Saturday night when he was walking alone.

O'Brien, head of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, recently had a war of words with Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley over an agreement that O'Brien signed, ending the county attorney's sex abuse investigation into the church.

Romley said by signing the agreement, O'Brien acknowledged his part in covering up allegations of sex abuse by priests and agreed to surrender some of his authority.

However, O'Brien contradicted Romley and said he did not commit a crime because the allegations revealed by Romley date back to the '70s when he was not a bishop.

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