Trial Begins for Priest in Sex Abuse Lawsuit

By Sue Nowicki
Modesto Bee
February 13, 2012

Modesto Bee - The Rev. Michael Kelly

The Rev. Michael Kelly's trial in a civil lawsuit over complaints of sexually abusing a boy in the mid-1980s will open today in the San Joaquin County Courthouse in Stockton.

Kelly, pastor of St. Joachim in Lockeford, was accused by a man who is now in his late 30s of molesting him in his family's Stockton home in 1984-86. John Manly, a Southern California attorney who specializes in such cases, is representing the plaintiff. He previously described his client as a "young father, an officer in the military, someone that you'd be proud to have live next door to you."

Manly said the lawsuit comes as a result of "repressed memories" that were recalled in 2006.

Kelly has served at Our Lady of Fatima in Modesto, St. Jude's in Ceres and St. Patrick's in Sonora, among other posts. He also helped start the Modesto Youth Soccer Association. He was placed on administrative leave in 2008 after the civil lawsuit was filed.

Five months later, after an investigation by the diocese and law enforcement, Kelly was reinstated. Bishop Stephen Blaire said an investigation by an outside private investigator "did not reveal any evidence of sexual abuse on the part of Father Kelly."

Kelly's attorney, Tom Beatty, said his client "is innocent. Hopefully, we'll be able to put this to rest once and for all after four miserable years for Father Kelly."

The case will be heard by Judge Bob McNatt. Pretrial motions and jury selection are expected to last several days, with opening arguments beginning next week. Monday is a court holiday for Presidents Day.



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