Supporter of Priest Tries to Sway Jury

By Jennie Rodriguez-Moore
Modesto Bee
April 12, 2012

Photographed at the Catholic Social Service Guild's CHAIR-ity Event at the SOS Club in Modesto

STOCKTON -- For the second time since a civil trial began, a supporter of former Catholic priest Michael Kelly has attempted to interfere or influence the jury that found Kelly liable of sexually assaulting a child.

"That will not be tolerated," San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt warned spectators just before the second phase of the civil trial began Thursday.

The plaintiff, a former altar boy who is now 37 years old, said he was molested and raped by Kelly more than 20 years ago while they both served at Cathedral of the Annunciation.

BR Chairity Event 02

Modesto Bee - Father Michael Kelly of the Saint Joachim Catholic Parish in Lockeford, Calif. Photographed at the Catholic Social Service Guild's CHAIR-ity Event at the SOS Club in Modesto. March 31, 2009. (Brian K. Ramsay/The Modesto Bee)

The second phase of the trial will determine whether the Diocese of Stockton is liable for damages based on its handling of Kelly, who was found liable in the trial's first phase.

It's a civil lawsuit brought by the plaintiff, because the statute of limitations had run out and criminal charges couldn't be filed.

The plaintiff's attorneys say the church tried to cover up a scandal, but defense attorneys say the church responded to the claim and investigated before reinstating Kelly into ministry.

Kelly served at parishes throughout Calaveras, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. There were complaints of his roughhousing with children, perceived by parents as odd behavior. Several years before the plaintiff brought his claim forward, a family from Presentation Church, where Kelly served in the late 1990s, complained that Kelly put their son's face on his crotch.

In response, the diocese sent Kelly to St. John Vianney Center in Philadelphia, a faith-based center that specializes in the behavioral health of clergy. Evaluation results indicated he had pedophilic traits, but they didn't conclude he was a pedophile, said John Manly, the plaintiff's attorney.

Kelly was later sent to a six-month extended therapy stay at a Canada facility. Manly said parishioners believed Kelly was ill with ulcers. "He was leaving because they were concerned he was a pedophile," Manly said.


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