Judge Dismisses Father Kelleher Case in Charlotte
By Tiffany Thompson
Stanly News and Press
June 24, 2014
Tuesday, June 24, 2014 — A civil lawsuit that was pending against Father Michael Joseph Kelleher in Mecklenburg County Superior Court has been dismissed after a trial judge ruled that the case exceeded the statute of limitations. Two unnamed men, who reported that Kelleher sexually abused them while they were in their teens, filed the lawsuit Sept. 28, 2011.
The lawsuit stated that “since at least the mid-1970s, [the Charlotte Diocese] has known or should have known that Father Joseph Kelleher was abusing minors and also that he was spending long periods of time alone with them in the rectory, at other locations and on overnight trips both within and outside the territory of the defendant diocese.”
According to the court’s recent ruling, however, the two men waited too long to report their claims of sexual abuse and therefore exceeded the statute of limitations.
Seth Langson, a Charlotte attorney who represented the two men, confirmed that he has 30 days in which to file an appeal to the judge’s decision.
“It is critical to remember that this ruling did not have anything to do with whether the Diocese had covered up and concealed sexual abuse by priests or whether Father Kelleher and/or Father Richard Farwell had abused our clients,” Langson said in his “A Voice for Victims of Sexual Abuse” blog.
“This case also should motivate people to demand that our legislatures extend or abolish the civil statute of limitations for sex abuse.”
Despite the ruling in Mecklenburg County, Kelleher still has a criminal case pending in Stanly County. He was arrested in July 2010 after one of the men accused Kelleher of sexual abuse stemming from an alleged incident at Our Lady of the Annunciation in Albemarle. The incident was reported to have occurred in 1977 when the plaintiff was 14 years old.
Kelleher was subsequently arrested and charged with indecent liberties with a child. He was later placed on administrative leave from his post as a chaplain at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Kernersville.
In November 2011, motions were filed in the case that requested the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte and the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh produce records related to the investigation against Kelleher, stemming from his 2010 arrest.
The motions indicated that Kelleher admitted to Albemarle police that he inappropriately touched a male victim in 1977. The incident reportedly occurred in the parlor of the rectory of Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Church of Albemarle.
That case is still open, though new information has come to light that Kelleher may be unable to stand trial. According to a statement by a forensic psychiatrist from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Central Regional Hospital, a forensic evaluation was recently completed on Kelleher.
Based on the findings from the evaluation, Kelleher, who will turn 86 this week, was deemed to be “incapable to proceed.”
Kelleher’s case was added to the docket for this session of Stanly County Superior Court, but nothing will happen with the case this week, according to the Stanly County district attorney’s office.