A criminal grand jury in California has indicted former Diocese of Stockton priest Father Michael Eugene Kelly, who fled to Ireland during a previous civil case he later lost.
An extradition warrant has been issued for Kelly’s arrest and deportation to the United States.The 63-year old cleric is a native of Ballingarry, Co Tipperary, where his family still lives and where he fled to after telling his bishop he did not believe he could get a fair hearing.
Kelly faces three counts of lewd conduct and oral copulation with a child and could be sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Deputy District Attorney Dana Pfeil gave evidence following a sheriff’s investigation that Kelly began molesting his alleged victim when the child was 10 years old.
The District Attorney's Office say they will work with the U.S. Department of Justice to extradite Kelly from Ireland to Calaveras County in California.
The DA stated, "Locating and extraditing Kelly could be a lengthy process. However, the indictment handed down by the grand jury [postpones] the statute of limitations so that we will be able to pursue justice for the victim when Kelly is caught and returned to Calaveras County no matter how long it takes."
Kelly is the former pastor of St. Joachim's Church, in Lockeford, CA and fled to Ireland midway through a civil case against him in which a former altar boy, Travis Trotter, claimed he had been abused. Trotter won a $3.75 million award.
The case was controversial because it was based on “recovered memories,” which is often deeply contentious.
Two other victims have since come forward, both former altar servers.
In June, Bishop Stephen Blaire of the Stockton Diocese said that the church would pay $875,000 to Trotter, with the rest coming from insurance.
"It is our hope that this settlement will help the victim continue to find healing for the suffering he endured," Blaire said at the time.
"We have tried to find resolutions to these cases that will provide some measure of solace for victims. We continue to follow strict measures to ensure that we are protecting the young and the vulnerable."
Kelly has vehemently protested his innocence.
Kelly passed two lie detector tests, has hundreds of his former parishioners still siding with him, and an extensive inquiry by the Diocese of Stockton found him not guilty.
His flight to Ireland was not illegal. He is not under any prison sentence and lost a civil case.
Now, however, he will have to decide whether to fight the extradition warrant or not .Many of his former parishioners believe he has been unfairly targeted because of the activities of a colleague, Father Oliver Grady, a notorious pedophile who was defrocked.