New Lawsuit Filed against Stockton Diocese

By Alexander MacLean
Union Democrat
September 12, 2012

A new sexual-abuse lawsuit against a former Catholic priest who ministered in both Tuolumne and Calaveras counties was filed Tuesday in San Joaquin County Superior Court.

The lawsuit alleges Michael Kelly sexually abused a 12-year-old altar boy while head priest at St. Andrew’s Parish in San Andreas from 2000 to 2002.

The plaintiff, now 24, is identified only as “John CC Doe” to protect his privacy as a victim of childhood sexual abuse, according to the civil claim for damages.

The lawsuit names as defendants the diocese, St. Andrew’s Parish, Kelly, Bishop Stephen Blaire, Monsignor Richard Ryan, and 100 unnamed defendants.

It claims the plaintiff suffered emotional distress and physical pain as a result of the abuse that led to suicidal thoughts and difficulty interacting with others, stifling his professional development and adversely affecting his employment.

It doesn’t specify the amount of money being sought.

There are a total of 10 causes of actions listed against Kelly and the diocese for alleged negligence, failing to warn families of Kelly’s past complaints, constructive fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress and sexual harassment.

Only Kelly is accused of sexual battery, assault and gender violence, while the diocese is specifically accused of negligent supervision as well as negligent hiring and retention of employees.

The lawsuit alleges Kelly would travel to the victim’s home when the victim’s parents were gone and abuse the boy in his bedroom.

The lawsuit further claims Blaire and Ryan conspired to place Kelly at a church in an area with “a remote location and low population” to conceal earlier allegations of misconduct with children.

An unidentified California psychologist, commissioned by the Stockton Diocese to evaluate Kelly in 1999, was unable to rule out the possibility that Kelly had “pedophilic” tendencies, according to the lawsuit.

“I do believe it is prudent to recommend that, in addition to psychotherapy, he not minister to children alone or to families in which there are children,” the psychologist is quoted as stating.

Stockton Diocese representatives were first informed of the lawsuit by calls from reporters Tuesday afternoon, according to spokeswoman Sister Terry Davis.

“Eventually we will be served, but that hasn’t happened yet,” she said.

Attorneys Vince Finaldi and John Manly, of the law firm Manly and Stewart, planned to formally announce the lawsuit’s filing at a news conference this morning in front of the San Joaquin County courthouse, where Manly previously represented a Fairfax man in a separate sexual abuse lawsuit against Kelly and the Diocese of Stockton.

In that case, Travis Trotter, a now 38-year-old airline pilot, accused Kelly of molesting him while he was an altar boy at Stockton’s Cathedral of the Annunciation between 1984 and 1985.

A San Joaquin County jury in April found Kelly liable for the sexual assault.

Kelly fled to his native Ireland the day after the verdict, citing stress-related health issues.

The Stockton Diocese on April 20 settled the case for $3.75 million.

Around the time of the settlement, the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it was investigating allegations from several former St. Andrew’s parishioners who said Kelly had sexually abused them as well.

Manly and Finaldi said their law firm was representing some of the Calaveras County victims and cooperating with authorities during the criminal investigation.

“We did give the Sheriff and District Attorney’s Office quite a bit of breathing room because we didn’t want to interfere with their investigation,” Finaldi said. “We also want to see Michael Kelly brought to justice, but that is out of our hands.”

The fact that Kelly is believed to be living in Ireland won’t keep him from facing the latest allegations, according to Finaldi.

“If we have to go to Ireland to take his deposition, we’ll do it. We did it in the Oliver O’Grady case,” Finaldi said.

O’Grady, another former Stockton Diocese priest, was convicted in 1993 of molesting a pair of Turlock brothers several times between 1978 and 1991. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, but was paroled in 2000 and deported to Ireland, where he lives today.

He famously detailed his crimes in the Academy Award-nominated 2006 documentary “Deliver Us From Evil.”

The Stockton Diocese was ordered to pay the Turlock victims $30 million, an amount later reduced to $7 million.

In May of this year, a former San Andreas man, now 25 and living in the Bay Area, filed a lawsuit against the Stockton Diocese alleging O’Grady molested him while ministering at St. Andrew’s Parish in the early 1990s.

Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz did not return a telephone message for comment regarding the latest developments in Kelly’s case Tuesday evening.

The county District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case.

Kelly also ministered at St. Patrick’s Parish in Sonora from 1987 to 1997, but Tuolumne County authorities have said in the past they haven’t received any complaints related to Kelly.








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