Attorneys Have Final Say in Trial of Priest

By Jennie Rodriguez-Moore
Stockton Record
April 6, 2012

Jurors in the child sex-abuse trial of popular priest the Rev. Michael Kelly began hearing closing statements Thursday, summarizing the six-week civil trial that was focused on a 37-year-old man's repressed memories.

Kelly, currently pastor at St. Joachim's Church in Lockeford, is accused of molesting a former altar boy, identified in court documents only as John TZ Doe, at Cathedral of the Annunciation during the mid-1980s.

The plaintiff filed suit after learning there would be no criminal charges because the statute of limitations had run out.

"It's not easy hearing about a child raped," the plaintiff's attorney, John Manly, addressed jurors. "He didn't ask for this."

Meanwhile, the defense countered that, while the plaintiff believes the abuse to be real, he's clinging to recovered memories that were made up.

It wasn't easy for his client to face one of the oldest and largest institutions, Manly said of the plaintiff. "It really is David and Goliath," he said.

Manly reminded jurors of the various witnesses who testified about Kelly's tickling of children and roughhousing. Witnesses said it was unusual behavior for a priest, and some thought it was bizarre or inappropriate.

One witness didn't like the manner in which the priest was playing with his children and asked Kelly to leave his home. Kelly denies he was asked to leave.

According to Manly, Kelly's antics were signs of a pedophile.

Although no one actually saw Kelly molest the plaintiff, Manly said, there is corroborative evidence.

"We all know that child sex abuse happens in secret," Manly said.

Bay Area forensic psychiatrist Anlee Kuo believed Doe's story. He passed various tests with validity measures before and during Kuo's evaluation, Manly said, and added that repressed memory is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association and is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Manly described his client as a model citizen. Doe, a major in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, flew over Tora Bora in Afghanistan in search of terrorist Osama bin Laden in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He is a father and a husband.

"He is not a liar," Manly said.

Defense attorneys maintain that, while the defendant is truthful, he's being truthful about a lie. His recovered memories, they said, are falsely created.

"False memories have caused great harm," said attorney Jim Goodman.

According to defense witness Dr. J. Alexander Bodkin of Harvard University, the phenomenon of recovered repressed memories - also known as dissociative memory - has never been scientifically proved.

"People's memories don't get better with time," he said. "They get worse.

"The plaintiff's story is difficult to believe."

Defense attorneys said Kelly admits to acting immaturely as a young cleric but maintains he never molested any children.

"He's a good priest loved by almost all," said attorney Thomas Beatty. Kelly was cleared to return to his parish after a six-month investigation, Beatty said.

Closing statements are expected to conclude today, and then jurors will begin deliberating on whether to find Kelly liable of sexual battery.

If he is found liable, the trial will continue with a second phase focused on the diocese's handling of Kelly and child sex-abuse claims against other priests.

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








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