An attorney said today he has filed a lawsuit against a Catholic priest and the Diocese of Stockton, alleging the priest sexually abused a schoolboy in the 1980s.
The Southern California law office of John C. Manley filed suit Friday in San Joaquin County. The suit is filed on behalf of plaintiff "John TZ Doe" and lists as defendants an unnamed Catholic diocese, parish, school and priest.
“I’ll confirm on the record that it’s against the (Stockton Diocese) and Father (Michael) Kelly,” Manly said in a phone interview today with The Bee.
The suit seeks an unspecified amount of money for actual and punitive damages on behalf of the plaintiff.
“As of this moment, the diocese has not been served with any papers, so we have no comment,” said Stockton diocese spokeswoman Sister Terry Davis.
Diocese attorney Paul Balestracci said the lack of names was not unusual.
“In lawsuits in childhood sexual abuse cases where the plaintiff is over 26 years old, the defendants have to initially be named as Doe,” he said. “The plaintiff has to go through certain steps (before defendants are named). I don’t know how long it will take. We’re just interested in the truth.”
Kelly’s attorney, Thomas Beatty, said he expects the defandants’ names to be added and responses to be filed in the next 60 to 90 days. The lawsuit came two weeks after the 58-year-old priest was reinstated by the diocese after a monthslong investigation into the sexual abuse allegations. He was on administrative leave during the probe.
"I think the lawsuit was speeded up and filed as a direct consequence of the investigation that fully exonerated Father Kelly," Beatty said. "He was fully investigated by the bishop after the claim that came in six or seven months ago. We’d heard nothing from the plaintiff. In fact, the plaintiff’s attorney refused to let us talk with the person who claimed to have regained his memory.
"Naturally, (Kelly is) upset. It’s so hard to deal with a situation that’s patently false."
Manly, however, said the diocese “never asked me” to talk with the plaintiff. "If they had, why would I want the plaintiff to talk with them? My experience has been they are really not interested in finding the truth and protecting their victims."
The lawsuit said the plaintiff, confirmed by Manly to be a male, was born on May 29, 1974, and is on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The lawsuit said the alleged abuse happened "from about 1982 through 1985" when the plaintiff was a student at a parochial school.
"The charges are vigorously denied," said Kelly’s attorney, Beatty. "There was a complete, thorough, expensive investigation by outside parties for the diocese. There’s just no truth to these allegations."
Kelly, a native of Ireland, joined the Stockton Diocese in 1973. Among other duties, he served at Our Lady of Fatima in Modesto from 1973-79, at St. Bernard’s in Tracy from 1979-1984, at the Cathedral of Annunciation in Stockton from 1984-1987, as pastor at St. Patrick’s in Sonora from 1987-1997, as parochial vicar at St. Jude’s in Ceres from 2003-04, and as pastor at St. Joachim in Lockeford since 2004.