Priest Denies Abuse Claim
Lockeford Cleric Subject of Newly Filed Lawsuit

By Alex Breitler
Stockton Record
April 1, 2008

LOCKEFORD - A Catholic priest denied a newly filed lawsuit's claims that he sexually abused a young boy in Stockton in the early 1980s.

"The accusations are outrageous lies, and I categorically deny them," the Rev. Michael Kelly said Monday.

Kelly was placed on administrative leave in October while the Diocese of Stockton investigated. He was cleared in mid-March and has returned to the ministry at St. Joachim Catholic Church in Lockeford.

Now, however, a lawsuit filed last week in San Joaquin County Superior Court claims a priest, identified by the plaintiff's attorney as Kelly, sexually abused a boy while serving at Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton.

The plaintiff, now 33, did not recall the molestation until spring 2006, the lawsuit says.

Attorney Vince Finaldi, who works for a Newport Beach-based law firm that has filed about two dozen complaints against the Stockton Diocese, criticized the church for its handling of the Kelly case.

"The fact that they were so bold as to put this guy back in the ministry when they know they haven't done a complete and full investigation, it's extreme and outrageous," Finaldi said.

A diocese spokeswoman said Monday that the organization had not received any court papers and had no comment on the allegations.

The lawsuit says the priest befriended the plaintiff's family and baby-sat the boy between 1982 and 1985, when he was 7 to 11 years old. The alleged abuse took place at the boy's home, Finaldi said.

The complaint does not formally name any defendants or the plaintiff, who serves in the military and no longer lives in the area. State law says that in cases where the alleged victim is at least 26, defendants cannot be named in court documents until attorneys have filed statements that confirm or support the allegations.

In March, the diocese said that a third party made the allegation and that neither the third party nor the alleged victim would agree to speak with diocese officials.

There's a reason for that, Finaldi said. "These are not meetings intended to get to the truth of exactly what happened to provide healing for the victims," he said.

The case has not been reported to police, the attorney said.

Kelly said he received a standing ovation after Sunday Mass when he told churchgoers that he would fight the accusations "with every fiber of my being and until the last breath of my life."

Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or


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