Stockton Diocese Officials Testify; Father Michael Kelly May Take the Stand Tuesday

By Ross Farrow
Lodi News-Sentinel
March 17, 2012

Two of the highest-ranking officials from the Stockton Catholic Diocese Vicar General Monsignor Richard Ryan and Chancellor Barbara Thiella took the witness stand Friday as the third week of Father Michael Kelly's civil trial came to a close.

Kelly, pastor of St. Joachim's Catholic Church in Lockeford for the past eight years, was tentatively scheduled to defend himself in the lawsuit filed by a former altar boy, but it appears that Kelly won't testify until at least Tuesday.

While being questioned by the plaintiff's attorney, John Manly, Ryan said he would consider a priest tickling children to be "inappropriate," depending on the circumstances. Several witnesses in the civil trial said that Kelly tickled children aggressively, though some of them said they didn't see anything sexual about it.

The plaintiff, 37, has sued Kelly and the diocese on allegations that Kelly sexually assaulted him in the mid-1980s, when the plaintiff was about 10 years old. He attended Church of the Annunciation in Stockton and Annunciation School at the time.

Kelly denies all allegations against him and has never been criminally charged.

The plaintiff, whose name is not being disclosed due to a court order, said earlier this week that he couldn't remember the alleged sexual incidents regarding Kelly until his memory of them began to come back to him in 2006. The term "repressed memory" was used in previous testimony, but Judge Bob McNatt asked attorneys on Wednesday to use a different term because of different interpretations for the term.

Two experts who don't believe in repressed testimony are scheduled to testify, possibly next week.

Court will not be in session on Monday. The trial will resume at 10 a.m. Tuesday at San Joaquin County Superior Court, 222 E. Weber Ave., Department 42, fourth floor, Stockton.



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