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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview with Joseph Reaves

Aired June 16, 2003 - 20:21   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know if you heard about the story, but the bishop of Phoenix, Arizona is in the hospital now after being arrested earlier with a fatal hit and run accident. Now authorities said Thomas O'Brien's blood pressure shot up alarmingly as he was being booked into jail. They'll finish the booking process when his health stabilizes. Bishop O'Brien, faces a felony charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident that happened over the weekend. Now earlier this month, I should point out, O'Brien reached a deal with the authorities to avoid a possible indictment on charges connecting to failing to report sexual abuse by priests.
For more on the hit and run accident, we're joined by Joseph Reaves, reporter for "The Arizona Republic" newspaper.

Joseph thanks for being with us.

What is the latest on the hit and run, it involved two cars killing this one man.

JOSEPH REAVES, "ARIZONA REPUBLIC": It did. The bishop's car was the first car to hit him as far as we know. The police reports say, then the second car ran over the victim.

COOPER: And both cars left the scene.

REAVES: Both left the scene. There were one couple in another car in front of them that saw the accident in the rear view mirror, chased the bishop's car, got the plate number and returned it to police. Obviously the car couldn't chase two cars so we don't know what happened with the second vehicle.

COOPER: Now this is a bizarre turn of events for this bishop who has been wrangling with the legal system for quite some time now. Are you surprised by this arrest?

REAVES: Of course, it is mind boggling. You can't imagine how this came about. We don't have a full story. The bishop says he hit something -- he thought he hit something but didn't think it was worth stopping. That's hard to believe. His windshield is damaged. His right front side is damaged. The victim weighed 235 pounds. But still we don't know what happened. But certainly, the circumstantial evidence is pretty staggering.

COOPER: You sat down with him last week, obviously, before all this happened. What were your impressions of him?

REAVES: He's a very gentle man who abhors controversy. And the controversy last week he admitted he covered up sexual abuse. He was possibly going to be indicted for obstructing justice. The stress of that was weighing incredibly heavy on hill. When I saw him, his health looked bad. He looked frail and looked like a man who was having -- struggling.

COOPER: Is there any evidence alcohol was involved in this hit and run?

REAVES: No. And in fact just the opposite from the time line we've been able to put together, he was at a confirmation mass in a town about an hour from where the accident was. He was in mass from 6:00 to 7:30. It takes about an hour to get to the accident scene. And so it looks like there was no time for him to have any drinking but we don't know.

COOPER: Well, besides the legal charges facing him, do you think he'll be forced to resign now his position from the church, from the diocese?

REAVES: The Vatican is not -- doesn't like to accept a bishop's resignation in a situation where it looks like he's been forced out. This is a different situation now, there are criminal charges. I find it hard to believe that he can remain in this position much longer.

COOPER: He submitted his resignation regarding those other charges. The Vatican had turned it down. Rejected the resignation.

REAVES: He tried to submit his resignation in Washington, D.C. and was turned down.

COOPER: Then he made this deal with prosecutors. We'll see what happened on this alleged hit and run.

Joseph Reaves, appreciate you joining us. Thanks.

REAVES: Thanks, Anderson.

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