Marin County District Attorney Lori E. Frugoli announced that the charges against vandals who allegedly toppled a statue of a Catholic saint were reduced following “an innovative restorative justice solution,” according to a Thursday release.
The protestors, who allegedly tore down the statue of St. Junipero Serra at a Catholic parish in San Rafael, California, on Oct. 12, 2020 during a protest marking California’s “Indigenous People’s Day,” had their charges reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, according to the release by the Marin County District Attorney’s office. Felony charges were originally filed in November 2020, according to Catholic News Agency. (RELATED: GOP Rep Rips FBI Over ‘Utter Disregard’ For Catholics’ ‘Fundamental Constitutional Freedoms’)
“It is the District Attorney’s Office’s goal to achieve a fair result on all cases, and I strongly believe justice was served on this one,” Frugoli said in the release. “While this issue has raised emotions because of the sensitivities around religion, community boundaries, and historic inequities, the fact is that a resolution through accountability has been reached through restorative justice and that is a victory for this community.”
“I am disturbed but not surprised. I have seen this happen too many times before,” Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone wrote to Frugoli and Marin County Deputy District Attorney Aicha Mievis. “We are promised justice and equal treatment, only to have our legitimate concerns dismissed, and we ourselves treated as unworthy of consideration.”
My message to Marin County DA who just reduced the charges for the St. Junipero Serra vandals. “An undeniable felony was committed in public, in front of the police, and caught on camera. What you propose is not a punishment that fits the crime.” https://t.co/0d94b2ZzBi
— Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone (@ArchCordileone) May 25, 2023
Cordileone said in the letter that officers of the San Rafael Police Department were ordered to stand down and not intervene during the protest.
“Who gave the order to the police officers not to do their sworn duty, for which they put their lives on the line every day? Why has there been no investigation? Why has the person responsible for this injustice not been held accountable?” Cordileone asked.
Pope Francis I declared Junipero Serra a saint in 2015, according to Religion News Service, despite controversy over the treatment of Native Americans at missions founded by the 18th-century priest. Statues of Serra have been removed or toppled since the death of George Floyd in police custody in May 2020.
“It is clear to me that this course of action would not have been taken with anyone else. In fact, this crime likely would have been charged as a hate crime, at least if it were perpetrated against certain other minority and vulnerable groups of people,” Cordileone wrote. “Nonetheless, I withheld comment on the rejection of hate crime charges, even though there have been more than 100 attacks on Catholic Church property across the nation, including in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, one of which was someone firing a bullet into our Cathedral.”
“Anti-Catholicism has a long and ugly history in this country. Now, with this decision, you have given the signal that attacks on Catholic houses of worship may continue without serious legal consequence,” Cordileone continued.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reported at least 255 attacks or incidents involving Catholic churches since May 2020, according to the group’s website.
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