Fact Check: Sen. Kamala Harris Attempts to Defend Record of Prosecuting Child Sexual Assault

Abuse victims Jim Robertson (R) and Rita Milla (L) are joined by supporters holding quilts bearing the portraits of abused children while gathered outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, California, on February 1, 2013, one day after the release of personnel files of priests …
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

CLAIM: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) attempted to defend herself against Vice President Mike Pence’s challenge to her record of not standing up for law enforcement by stating she has “personally prosecuted everything from child sexual assault to homicide.”

VERDICT: FALSE with regard to child sexual assault.

During Harris’s tenure as San Francisco’s chief prosecutor, she showed no signs of protecting victims of sexual abuse, since she failed to prosecute any of the sexual abuse claims brought against Catholic priests in her city, despite outcries from victim groups.

Breitbart News Senior Contributor Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute, reported in his book Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America’s Progressive Elite, that during her 13-year tenure as district attorney and then attorney general, Harris failed to prosecute even one case of priest sexual abuse, even as at least 50 major cities had brought charges against priests during that same period.

While Harris was neglecting pursuing the prosecution of cases of priest sexual abuse, her office “would strangely hide vital records on abuses that had occurred,” Schweizer revealed.

The bombshell details showed that while Harris’s predecessor, former San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan had launched an aggressive investigation into priests of the Archdiocese of San Francisco accused of sexual abuse, Harris’s campaign to unseat Hallinan showed an unusual influx of unparalleled donations from high-level officials of the Catholic Church.

“Harris had no particular ties to the Catholic Church or Catholic organizations, but the money still came in large, unprecedented sums,” Schweizer wrote.

In addition to campaign donations from multiple law firms defending San Francisco priests against abuse claims, Schweizer observed that “board members of San Francisco Catholic archdiocese-related organizations and their family members donated another $50,950 to Harris’s campaign.”

As Schweizer noted, Harris’s ties to those working to block exposure of the archdiocese’s secret documents containing information about priests accused of sexual abuse were extensive.

The author explained that attorney Paul Renne of Cooley Godward was the husband of former San Francisco city attorney Louise Renne, a mentor to Harris. Paul Renne worked with lawyer Joseph Russoniello, who, as Schweizer wrote, “negotiated the agreement to bury the abuse records from public view.”

Though Harris has touted her early career as a sexual crimes prosecutor, after she won her run-off campaign against Hallinan, her office actually worked to cover up the records of claims of sexual abuse by priests of the San Francisco archdiocese.

According to Schweizer:

Hallinan’s office had used the archdiocese files to guide its investigations and talked publicly about releasing the documents after removing victims’ names and identifiers. Harris, on the other hand, abruptly decided to bury the records. For some reason, she did not want the documents released in any form. Harris’s office claimed that the cover-up was about protecting the victims of abuse.

“District Attorney Harris focuses her efforts on putting child molesters in prison,” her office said. “We’re not interested in selling out our victims to look good in the paper.”

Victims’ groups, however, were quite eager for the documents to be released.

“They were outraged by her actions,” Schweizer noted. “Far from protecting victims, they argued, the cover-up was actually protecting the abusers by keeping their alleged crimes secret.”

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