Judge Broadens Scope of Priest Molest Trial

By Jennie Rodriguez-Moore
The Record
February 16, 2012

Father Michael Kelly, left, and decon Bill Warren stand in St. Joachim Church in Lockeford.

A civil trial involving a popular Lockeford priest accused of molesting an altar boy three decades ago started this week, and a judge has ruled that the Catholic Church's handling of past molestation cases may be admissible as evidence.

The alleged victim, now 37 years old, said the Rev. Michael Kelly sexually assaulted him during the 1980s when the priest was at Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton.

Identified in court papers only as John TZ Doe, the plaintiff is suing the Diocese of Stockton and Kelly, 62, currently pastor at St. Joachim Catholic Church in Lockeford.

Court papers say the plaintiff came into contact with Kelly when he was an altar boy and a student at Annunciation School during the 1980s.

Vince Finaldi, a Newport Beach attorney representing the man, said in court Wednesday that Kelly also baby-sat the victim when he was a boy.

According to the complaint, John TZ Doe involuntarily suppressed memories until the spring of 2006. The plaintiff is described as a father and a member of the U.S. armed forces.

In his complaint, he further accuses the diocese of hiring and employing sexual exploiters.

"There have been dozens of lawsuits for childhood sexual abuse" against the diocese, according to the complaint. "Many of these plaintiffs were ostracized and retaliated against ... for reporting the abuse."

The statements reflect past clergy allegations and convictions, such as those involving former priest Oliver O'Grady.

O'Grady, whose past has been well documented, was convicted of sexually abusing two boys in 1994, and the diocese lost millions of dollars settling those legal battles.

More recently, O'Grady was convicted of child pornography charges in Ireland, to which he was deported after serving prison time.

Defense attorneys asked the court to exclude the church's history of child sex-abuse cases from the trial.

On Wednesday, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt ruled to allow evidence of how the church has handled such claims as long as details from each case are not revealed.

Kelly, also a native of Ireland, denies engaging in child molestation.

His attorney, Thomas Beatty, said Kelly also has passed a polygraph test and is anxious to prove his innocence.

He was placed on administrative leave following the complaint, but was cleared to return to St. Joachim at the end of an independent investigation commissioned by the diocese.

Kelly was never criminally charged by the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office. But he faces another potential legal battle.

Kelly is being investigated by the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office over a claim by another former altar boy, now in his 20s.

McNatt also will rule this week on other causes of action and on the admission of certain areas of evidence.

Civil court records with details of the victim's and Kelly's personal lives remain sealed. But McNatt may or may not admit some of those details in trial as they resurface.

A jury is expected to begin hearing evidence next week.

Contact reporter Jennie Rodriguez-Moore at (209) 943-8564 or Visit her blog at








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.