The Rev. Michael Kelly faces up to 14 years in prison if he’s convicted of the charges included in a Calaveras criminal grand jury indictment presented Monday to Superior Court Judge John E. Martin. The indictment includes three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct on a child and one count of oral copulation with a child.
They are the first criminal charges against Kelly, a longtime Stockton Diocese priest who fled to his native Ireland in April 2012 after he was found liable in a civil lawsuit of sexually abusing Travis Trotter. The diocese settled that lawsuit with the largest single award in diocesan history – $3.75 million.
A news release said the Calaveras County district attorney’s office will work with the Office of International Affairs in Washington, D.C., to extradite Kelly from Ireland. Deputy District Attorney Dana Pfeil said it’s a “lengthy” process but the indictment means the statute of limitations won’t expire, “so that we will be able to pursue justice for the victim when Kelly is caught and returned to Calaveras County no matter how long it takes.”
Kelly, who served at Our Lady of Fatima in Modesto from 1973-79 and helped start the Modesto Youth Soccer Association, responded to the indictment in an email to The Bee: “ I can categorically state to you, and to anyone else, that these allegations are totally and completely false. They absolutely never happened.”
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Calaveras authorities would not comment further, but the case is likely that of an unidentified 22-year-old man who claimed in a lawsuit filed in 2011 that Kelly abused him as a 10- to 11-year-old altar boy at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in San Andreas. The complainant is represented by John Manly, a Southern California attorney who also represented Trotter and a third man, whose lawsuit claims abuse by Kelly at St. Thomas Aquina, a Mokelumne Hill church.
“I think I can speak on behalf of my team and the clients: This (indictment) is more important than anything that has happened,” Manly said Tuesday. “Most of our clients want more than anything for the perpetrators to receive justice, to be in (jail) where they can’t do this to any other child. I’m absolutely certain that Father Kelly is around children today. I’m grateful to the DA’s office, the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office and the grand jury to do the right thing here.”
Manly’s office has been credited with previously tracking down another Stockton Diocese priest, Oliver O’Grady, who was deported to his native Ireland in 2000 after serving a prison sentence for molesting three children. O’Grady was defrocked and has confessed to molesting more than 20 children. He was sentenced in 2012 in Ireland to three years in jail for possession of large amounts of child pornography.
When asked if his office would try to locate Kelly, Manly said, “Let’s just say, if I were Father Kelly, I’d be looking over my shoulder.”
Manly said he is sure that Bishop Stephen Blaire, Monsignor Richard Ryan and other bishops in Ireland know where Kelly is living. “They ought to send his location to the Calaveras DA’s office right now,” he said.
Sister Terry Davis, spokeswoman for the diocese, said the bishop “does not know” where Kelly is. In fact, she said, “For over two years, we’ve been cooperating with the Calaveras authorities. We’ve handed over anything they’ve needed. We’ll continue to do so.”
In an email to The Bee, Friends of Father Kelly, a loose-knit group of Kelly supporters, said it is “shocked and saddened to hear of the Calaveras County grand jury indictment of Michael Kelly. While we continue to stand by our friend, our group of over 1,200 supporters believe in the criminal justice system. We hope for a fair trial and a favorable outcome. As always, all victims of abuse are in our prayers.”