Catholic World News News Feature
Former Phoenix Bishop convicted of felony February 17, 2004
Bishop Thomas O'Brien, the former bishop of Phoenix, was convicted on Tuesday of a felony in the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian last June. The 68-year-old bishop may be the first US bishop to have been convicted of a felony. He could receive a sentence ranging from probation up to 3-3/4 years in prison.
O'Brien led the Phoenix diocese for almost 21 years until he stepped down last June after being charged in the death of pedestrian James L. Reed. The specific charge was "leaving the scene of a serious injury of a fatal accident." O'Brien's lawyers had offered the defense that their client didn't know he had hit a person, and thought someone had thrown a rock at his car or that he'd hit an animal.
Prosecutors had said that O'Brien knew or should have know he hit a person and noted that the bishop did not call police even after his vicar general told him the car may have been involved in a fatal accident. They also pointed out that O'Brien tried to get the damage to his car repaired even though he knew police were looking for the car. They acknowledge O'Brien would not have been charged with a crime if he had stopped and waited for police to arrive.