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Hit-And-Run Bishop Heard A Crash

Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien testified at his hit-and-run trial Monday that he heard a loud crash on the night he struck and killed a pedestrian but never saw anyone in the road.

O'Brien, speaking in public for the first time about the accident that ended his 21-year career as head of the Phoenix Diocese, said he winced and put up his right hand upon hearing the noise on the passenger side of his car.

He said he looked around the car and saw his windshield had been damaged but did not see anyone. The accident caused a spider-web crack over much of the passenger side of the windshield.

"Actually, you couldn't miss the windshield, so I began to wonder what had caused it," O'Brien said.

Under questioning from a defense attorney, O'Brien said that he drove on without figuring out what had happened.

O'Brien is accused of leaving the scene of an accident that killed pedestrian Jim Reed on June 14.

If convicted, O'Brien, 68, could get nearly four years in prison.

The accident occurred less than two weeks after prosecutors announced O'Brien had signed an immunity deal to spare him from indictment on obstruction charges for protecting child-molesting priests.

The bishop's lawyers have argued that he did not know he struck a jaywalker and that he instead thought his windshield had been cracked by a rock or a dog.

Earlier Monday, an expert testified that dim street lighting combined with glare from headlights and the victim's dark clothes would have made it difficult for the bishop to see the pedestrian.

William Uttal, a lighting expert and retired professor from the University of Michigan, said that the closest light pole to the accident was 64 feet away.

"For a driver not to see a pedestrian under these lighting conditions is consistent with everything I know," Uttal said.

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