Three Witnesses Testify about Kelly Tickling, Roughhousing with Children

By Ross Farrow
Lodi News-Sentinel
March 3, 2012

Three more people testified in the Michael Kelly civil sexual abuse trial Friday, with two of them saying that he touched children inappropriately.

However, there was no indication by witnesses whether any incidents were sexual in nature.

A man who grew up in Modesto, whose name was withheld by the court, testified about Kelly roughhousing in the family swimming pool and touching the man in an inappropriate location when the witness was a boy. The man was identified only as John C.D. Doe.

"It hurt a little bit," the witness said. "It was a little bit rough, maybe too intimate."

Kelly faces a clergy sexual abuse lawsuit filed by a 37-year-old man whose name was released in court on Thursday, but Judge Bob McNatt ruled on Friday that the plaintiff's name not be released. Court records show the plaintiff's name as John T.Z. Doe.

Kelly has been pastor of St. Joachim's Catholic Church in Lockeford since 2004 and previously served in Stockton, Sonora, Tracy, Modesto and Ceres.

The plaintiff alleges that Kelly, now 62, sexually abused him when the plaintiff was an altar boy at Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton in the 1980s. Kelly hasn't been arrested or charged with criminal sexual misconduct.

Two other witnesses testified Friday, saying that Kelly roughhoused with children frequently. They were Victoria Mussi and Sandra Mulverhill, who attended Cathedral of the Annunciation in the 1980s when Kelly was there.

The witness, who grew up in Modesto, testified on Friday that Kelly also led some stretching exercises alone with him in the boy's bedroom. The family lived in Modesto time and attended Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, where Kelly was a young priest at the time.

In the boy's bedroom, Kelly had the child, wearing Speedos, spread his legs as widely as possible and grabbed the boy's upper thigh, he testified. Kelly touched the boy's groin, but he said he didn't know if the act was intentional.

"My impression was that he enjoyed stretching me far," the witness said.

Attorney James Goodman, representing the Stockton Diocese, asked the witness, "Do you feel that Father Kelly committed any sexual misconduct?"

"No," he replied.

The witness added that he didn't tell his parents about the incidents.

In other testimony Friday, Victoria Mussi recalled seeing Kelly roughhousing children on the floor for what was to be a dinner visit at the Roy Mazzanti home in 1984, when Kelly allegedly wrestled with children from the Mussi and Mazzanti families.

Mussi testified that, upon seeing the roughhousing, Mazzanti asked Kelly to leave the residence before dinner was served.

While it may not have been intentional, Mussi said, Kelly touched the children in the groin. She said she later told her children to "be careful around Father Kelly."

However, during cross-examination, Mussi, whose two sons were altar boys in the 1980s, didn't find Kelly's actions to be sexual.

"Was (Kelly) touchy-feely with adults?" Manly asked Mussi.

"Not so much," she replied.

The plaintiff's attorney, John Manly, explained after court adjourned for the day Friday that the statute of limitations in criminal charges has passed leaving only the civil option.

Kelly has never been charged or convicted criminally.

Testimony is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. Tuesday at San Joaquin County Superior Court, 222 E. Weber Ave., Department 42, Stockton. Witnesses scheduled for the remainder of the trial include the plaintiff, Kelly, Monsignor Lawrence McGovern, who was pastor of Cathedral of the Annunciation in the 1980s when Kelly was there, and expert witnesses about repressed memory.



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