Rev. Kelley's Bail Set High, Then Gone

By Kathleen A. Shaw and Gary V. Murray
Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette
May 17, 2002

Worcester, MA -- The Rev. Robert E. Kelley was released on personal recognizance by a Superior Court judge yesterday afternoon after a judge in Leominster had earlier set bail at $200,000 cash.

Worcester lawyer Anthony M. Salerno, who is representing Rev. Kelley, got the bail reduced to personal recognizance during an emergency hearing held in Worcester Superior Court. The priest, who has not been active in the priesthood since 1986, was arraigned earlier in the morning in Leominster District Court on charges of child rape in connection with his alleged assault on Heather Mackey of Tewksbury.

Ms. Mackey, who attended the hearing with other alleged victims of Rev. Kelley, said Rev. Kelley raped her when she was under age 7. He was associate pastor at St. Cecilia's parish in Leominster at the time.

Assistant District Attorney William M. McGourty was willing to accept personal recognizance, but Judge Vito A. Virzi said he was setting $200,000 cash bail. The priest was placed in handcuffs and led off to a holding cell, the courtroom door slamming behind him.

Lawyer Jeffrey A. Newman, who is representing Ms. Mackey, Debbie A. Doucet and Nicole Cormier in a civil suit, hailed the action by Judge Virzi in setting a high bail and said a pattern of church influence on the judicial system of Massachusetts had finally come to an end. ``This is very significant,'' he said.

``The best feeling I have had in a long time is seeing him in handcuffs,'' Ms. Mackey said after the Leominster hearing. She was among women carrying dead roses. She explained that when she, Ms. Doucet and Ms. Cormier were young, Rev. Kelley would play ``head games'' by asking who would be the last of them to put a rose on his grave.

Ms. Doucet, of Leominster, and Ms. Cormier, of Fitchburg, are sisters; their maiden name is Goguen.

Former Southbridge resident Cyndi Yerrick Derosiers, who won a civil suit against Rev. Kelley alleging he abused her in 1968 and 1969, said he used to threaten to throw her into an open grave if she told her parents what he was doing to her. Ms. Derosiers drove from Maine for the arraignment.

She was critical of the Superior Court judge for allowing Rev. Kelley to ``walk'' on personal recognizance. ``How do they expect victims to come forward with this kind of stuff going on?'' she asked.

During the afternoon hearing in Superior Court, Mr. Salerno told Judge Francis R. Fecteau that his client's bail was set at $200,000 cash by Judge Virzi, despite the recommendation he and the prosecutor made that Rev. Kelley be released on his own recognizance.

Mr. Salerno said his 60-year-old client is gainfully employed, lives with his 90-year-old father and ``maintains his innocence in this matter.'' He said Rev. Kelley has a six-figure judgment against him in a civil case involving sexual abuse and ``has been paying faithfully every month.''

Assistant District Attorney John P. Haran told Judge Fecteau his office recommended at the arraignment that Rev. Kelley be released on personal recognizance because he showed up in court in response to a summons, because the allegation against him predated the only conviction on his record and because the main purpose of bail is to ensure a defendant's appearance in court.

Mr. Haran told Judge Fecteau he was leaving the question of bail to the court's discretion. In response to questions from the judge, Mr. Haran said he did not object to Rev. Kelley being released on personal recognizance with conditions, nor did he object to his bail remaining at $200,000 cash.

Judge Fecteau released Rev. Kelley and placed him on pretrial probation. As conditions of probation, he was ordered to report regularly to the Probation Department, have no contact with the alleged victim and her family and no unsupervised contact with anyone under age 16, submit to random drug and alcohol testing, maintain his present residence and employment and not to apply for a passport.

Mr. Salerno later said Judge Fecteau ``did the right thing.'' He credited the district attorney's office ``for not compromising justice and succumbing to the pressures of a lynch mob mentality.

``I think these allegations are contrived. I think it's a contrived conspiracy to convict this guy,'' he said.

Daniel J. Shea, a lawyer who is representing another alleged victim of Rev. Kelley in a civil suit, said he thought District Attorney John J. Conte had a ``cozy'' relationship with the church.

Mr. Shea said during a press conference outside of the Leominster courthouse that Mr. Conte was negligent in not seeking criminal charges against Monsignor Brendan Riordan of Long Island, N.Y., because of civil court documents showing that he was part of a group of priests who molested Mark Barry of Uxbridge.

``I get calls from authorities in Long Island wondering when the district attorney is going to act,'' he said. Mr. Shea said Monsignor Riordan left Massachusetts, which means the clock has stopped on the statute of limitations.

Mr. Conte said no allegations regarding Monsignor Riordan have been referred to his office and no alleged victim has come forward to anyone in his office. ``I have nothing viable on that in my office,'' he said.

Mr. Shea said a Leominster man received a signed confession from the Rev. Gerard Walsh in which the priest admitted molesting him, and that it was given to the district attorney.

The district attorney gave the confession to the bishop, Mr. Shea said, calling that an inexcusable act. Mr. Conte said all information coming into his office about sexual abuse by priests goes to the chancery, and the chancery is handing over to him all information received there.

Mr. Conte accused both lawyers of ``grandstanding'' and said the function of bail is to guarantee that the accused shows up for court. Rev. Kelley answered the summons, he said.

Mr. Conte said he had sought the arrest of Rev. Kelley, but the clerk at the Leominster District Court refused to allow it, and Rev. Kelley was summoned to court instead. ``He showed up for court,'' Mr. Conte said.


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