Jury in Clergy Abuse Case Begins Deliberations

By Ross Farrow
Lodi News-Sentinel
April 6, 2012

The case of a 37-year-old former altar boy who is accusing a Lockeford priest of sexually assaulting him is now in the jury’s hands.

The 10-woman, two-man jury was scheduled to began deliberations after lunch Friday and will continue until it reaches a verdict.

The trial, which began Feb. 29, centers around a 37-year-old Fairfax man who sued Father Michael Kelly for allegedly sexually assaulting him when the plaintiff was an altar boy in the mid-1980s at the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton.

Kelly, pastor of St. Joachim’s Catholic Church in Lockeford since 2004, has not been criminally charged. The statute of limitations for criminal complaints had expired by the time the plaintiff told his father about the alleged assault in 2007.

The plaintiff’s identity is being withheld by a court order because he is potentially a sexual assault victim.

Because it is a civil trial, only nine votes are needed to reach a verdict, Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt told the jury during his instructions on how jurors are to proceed in their deliberations.

McNatt added that the plaintiff’s burden of proof is less strict than a prosecutor’s is during a criminal trial. Jurors need only to determine whether the allegations against Kelly are “more likely to be true or less likely,” the judge said.

To establish whether an assault took place, McNatt said the jury must determine whether Kelly threatened to touch the plaintiff in an offensive or harmful manner and that he was about to carry out the threat.

Here is a summary of McNatt’s other jury instructions:

- It is up to the jury to determine what the facts of the case are.

- What attorneys said during the trial is not to be used as evidence. Only witness testimony is to be used in the decision-making process.

- If the jury determines that the plaintiff was sexually assaulted, the jury must also determine if he experienced severe emotional distress and that Kelly caused it.

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