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US bishop convicted in fatal hit-run accident

Former head of the Phoenix Diocese in Arizona, Bishop Thomas O'Brien, was found guilty on Tuesday of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, making what is believed to be the first case in which a US bishop has received a criminal conviction.

After deliberating just six-and-a-half hours over two days, the eight jurors told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Stephen Gerst in a packed courtroom that they unanimously agreed the bishop was guilty.

Conviction carries a sentence ranging from probation to as long as three years and nine months in prison.

Bishop O'Brien, 68, had admitted driving the car that struck and killed 43-year-old Jim Reed on a dark Phoenix street on 14 June. Although witnesses said a second car also hit Reed, no other vehicle has ever been traced to the accident.

On 18 June, two days after police arrested him, Bishop O'Brien resigned as head of the diocese, a position he had held for 21 years.

In statements to police and in testimony during his trial, Bishop O'Brien said he had no idea what had hit his windshield with a loud crack as he drove home from a confirmation ceremony.

At his trial, the bishop said when he couldn't see any obvious cause for the damage, he decided to drive the five minutes to his home, rather than stop.

Retired Phoenix bishop convicted in fatal hit-and-run accident (Catholic News Service 17/2/04)

Former Phoenix Bishop convicted of felony (Catholic World News 17/2/04)
Bishop convicted in hit-and-run (CNN/Associated Press 17/2/04)
Bishop guilty of fatal hit-run (Associated Press/The Australian 19/2/04)
Ariz. Bishop Convicted in Fatal Accident (The Guardian/Associated Press 18/2/04)
Arizona bishop defends actions at hit and run trial (CathNews 13/2/04)


19 Feb 2004