Another lawsuit has been filed in California against the Diocese of Stockton, members of the clergy, and the now disgraced Father Michael Kelly for another round of allegations of sexual abuse against children.
The new lawsuit, which comes just months after a settlement of $3.75 million was reached between Fr. Kelly and a separate abuse victim, claims that Fr. Kelly sexually abused a child in the early 2000s.
Included in the lawsuit are Diocese of Stockton, Bishop Steven Blaire, Monsignor Richard Ryan and Father Michael Kelly, a native of Tipperary in Ireland.
Fr Kelly joined the Stockton diocese in 1973 after completing his seminary studies in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. He returned to Ireland after a civil jury had ruled that Fr. Kelly had indeed molested a young boy. Since it was a civil case, Kelly had broken no law by leaving the country.
Soon after, he penned a letter to Bishop Blaire of Stockton, asserting his innocence and saying how his health could not take the “false” allegations.
Now, however, more charges have been brought against the disgraced priest. The Complaint for Damages charges the defendants with ten counts, including sexual battery, fraud and intentional affliction of emotional distress, seeking punitive damages.
The plaintiff’s attorney Vince Finaldi, of the law firm Manly and Stewart said, “Father Michael Kelly was known by the Diocese of Stockton to have allegations of sexual misconduct with minors lodged against him in the past.
“They ignored their statutory duty to report his crimes to law enforcement and placed him in a position of trust and authority as pastor of St. Andrew Parish. There he used his position to sexually assault my client, who was 12 years old at the time of his abuse.
The complaint states that Father Michael Kelly “…had previously been accused, by several individuals, on multiple occasions dating back to the 1970’s of engaging in sexual misconduct with minor parishioners of the Diocese of Stockton…” and “…had been sent for psychological evaluation, counseling and treatment as a result of these transgressions.”
A California licensed psychologist conducted an evaluation of Fr. Kelly in 1999 and concluded “I do not believe that we are able to rule out the possibility that some underlying or latent pedophilic elements may exist in this case…I believe it is prudent to recommend that, in addition to undergoing psychotherapy, he not minister to children alone or families in which there are children.”
Despite the recommendation, the Diocese made Michael Kelly a pastor and, according to the complaint, assigned him “…duties that included hearing the confessions of minors, overseeing altar servers, and running counseling programs, youth programs, and church-sponsored trips and events, allowing Father Michael Kelly to physically and sexually interact with the children, including Plaintiff.”
The complaint goes on to allege that the Diocese of Stockton, including Bishop Blaire, Monsignor Ryan and Father Kelly, engaged in a conspiracy to conceal allegations of sexual misconduct lodged against Father Kelly in an attempt to shield their reputation and allow donations and to continue flowing to the Diocese.
The complaint also includes an instance when Fr. Kelly arrived at the home of the plaintiff, who was a 12 year old altar boy at the time, when his parents were not home and sexually abused him under the guise of spiritual guidance in his bedroom.
On August 6, 2012, a San Joaquin County jury unanimously found Michael Kelly had committed sexual battery against another victim, decorated Air Force officer Travis Trotter, when he was a minor in 1984-1985. The day after the verdict, Michael Kelly fled the United States to his native Ireland and the Diocese subsequently settled the case for $3.5 million.
John Manly, the attorney for Travis Trotter, said, “I call upon law enforcement to track Michael Kelly down and return him to California to answer for his horrible crimes against innocent children.
“The Diocese of Stockton must once again be held responsible and made to pay for their cover up of Father Kelly’s crimes and their failure to protect the children in their parish.”