Witnesses Tell of Priest's Behavior around Kids

By Jennie Rodriguez-Moore
The Record
March 1, 2012

Michael Kelly

STOCKTON - Witness testimony in a civil lawsuit alleging Lockeford's the Rev. Michael Kelly sexually molested an altar boy began Wednesday in a courtroom full of the priest's supporters.

Now a 37-year-old man, the plaintiff is seeking damages from Kelly and the Diocese of Stockton, saying he recovered repressed memories of him being molested by the priest.

The plaintiff was a student at Annunciation School during the mid-1980s and an altar boy at Cathedral of the Annunciation, where Kelly has served.

Attorneys for the plaintiff must first try to prove that Kelly is liable; then they can argue the diocese was negligent for employing him.

The Diocese of Stockton's past handlings of child molestation cases, including that of defrocked and criminally convicted priest Oliver O'Grady, will be heard later in the trial. O'Grady, recently convicted of child pornography charges in his native Ireland, also served time for child molestation in San Joaquin County.

Kelly has never been charged by the San Joaquin County district attorney, and he was cleared by the diocese to continue leading St. Joachim Church in Lockeford.

But the plaintiff's attorneys say their client is not Kelly's only victim. They introduced witnesses Wednesday to show inappropriate behavior of a younger Kelly during the 1980s.

Ray Mazzanti, who was a parishioner at Annunciation, testified that he observed Kelly bounce children on his lap while lying on his back on a day the family invited the priest to dinner. Mazzanti said Kelly was in a family room with the children, and the parents were in another room.

"We weren't sure what we were seeing," he said. But to him, it appeared Kelly was bouncing the children on his genital area.

"All I know is we took him outside and we asked him to leave," Mazzanti said.

Mazzanti said he brought up his concerns to the diocese monsignor two to three weeks later.

Another witness, Barbara Green, said she saw Kelly hanging around teenage girls at an ice cream shop and a pizza parlor. The girls were giggling, and Kelly acted immature, said Kelly's attorney, Thomas Beatty.

According to the defense, Kelly was an outgoing, playful and maybe immature young cleric. "But there was never ever any sexual misconduct," Beatty said.

Identified in court papers as John TZ Doe, the plaintiff is a former U.S. Air Force major.

His Newport Beach attorney, John Manly, said his client lost his job as a commercial air pilot because of the mental trauma he had after recalling he had been sexually abused by Kelly.

Kelly has maintained he is innocent of the allegations. The trial will continue today.

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








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