Rev. Michael Kelly Rejects 3rd Cry of Abuse
By Sue Nowicki
November 10, 2012
|Modesto Bee - THE BEE The Rev. Michael Kelly in March 2009|
|sonora democrat - SONORA DEMOCRAT The Rev. Michael Kelly, shown here at his 40th birthday party in 1989, stands with Kevin Julian, left, and Sean Julian of Sonora.|
A third lawsuit filed last week against the Rev. Michael Kelly by a former altar boy at a Calaveras County church brought a swift response from the priest, who now lives in Ireland.
"The allegations are completely and totally false. They NEVER happened. Never. They are utterly untrue," Kelly wrote in an e-mail sent Thursday morning.
The first lawsuit, filed by Travis Trotter and alleging sexual abuse by Kelly in Stockton, was settled in April for $3.75 million. A second lawsuit was filed Sept. 11 by another former Calaveras County resident. All three plaintiffs are clients of Vince Finaldi and John Manly, Southern California attorneys who have won large clergy abuse settlements from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The most recent lawsuit comes on the heels of a series of letters from Kelly supporters received by The Bee. The letters say many current and past parishioners from Sonora, Tracy and other places where Kelly worked over four decades received phone calls from a woman who wanted to know if Kelly had molested their children.
The letter writers say they were contacted by Victoria Balfour, a New York woman hired by Manly after the first lawsuit was settled last spring. The authors of the letters were not happy with the calls. One woman said she hung up on Balfour, another questioned the legality of such calls, and one man said he was "infuriated and disgusted to find out" that Manly's team was "still fishing for victims."
Balfour, who described herself as a "victims advocate," has said she was sexually abused herself as a child. She has been credited with helping get sexual abuse charges filed against the once-prominent Bay Area child psychiatrist William Ayres, whose trial began last month. She also was hired by one victim's attorney in the case against former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who now is in prison.
She refused comment when asked about her phone calls to Stockton Diocese parishioners.
Manly acknowledged he hired Balfour, not to solicit new clients, but to continue the investigation into Kelly. He said he understood why so many people still support Kelly despite April's verdict, and said the Stockton Diocese is to blame for hiding information about the priest.
Calls anger Kelly supporters
Gloria Carrillo of Sonora said she received a phone call from a woman who "identified herself as working for the attorney in the Father Kelly case. I returned the call in the belief I was calling Father Kelly's attorney."
Before she ended the call, Carrillo said, she was given the "strong impression" that if she said her son, now 32, was interested in filing a lawsuit, "they would have jumped all over that. They were going to find something (against Kelly), regardless if there was any cause for action."
Susan Julian, also of Sonora, said she tried to tell Balfour that she has known Kelly for three decades and described his positive influence on her sons. "She told me she has found 10 more victims, mostly from St. Bernard's (in Tracy), but including one from my parish (St. Patrick's) in Sonora. She was going on and on and tried to convince me that I was stupid and didn't realize this was going on. I finally had to hang up on her."
Julian said Kelly often was in her home, including for Thanksgiving dinner every year. Two of her sons, now in their 30s, were about 8 and 10 when Kelly became pastor at their parish. They were altar boys for him and played on soccer teams that he refereed. Neither believes Kelly is guilty of sexual abuse of children, Julian said.