A third sexual abuse lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Stockton and a former priest who ministered in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties was planned to be filed this morning in San Joaquin County Superior Court.
A copy of the complaint obtained by The Union Democrat from the plaintiff’s attorneys said a now 22-year-old Orange County man has accused Father Michael Kelly of the Stockton Catholic Diocese of molesting him at Mokelumne Hill Church in 2000.
The plaintiff, who was 10 at the time, claims Kelly “groomed” him for abuse and later forcibly molested him on church grounds.
Kelly was named head pastor at St. Andrew’s Parish in San Andreas in 2000 and part of his duties included serving as pastor at Mokelumne Hill Church, according to the lawsuit.
From 1987 to 1997, Kelly served as head pastor at St. Patrick’s Parish in Sonora. However, Tuolumne County authorities said on multiple occasions they have never received any complaints about the priest.
Identified only as “John MT Doe” in the civil complaint, the plaintiff stated the abuse led to “extreme and severe mental anguish and emotional distress” that has prevented him from performing daily activities, sustaining employment and fully enjoying life.
The civil complaint states Stockton Diocese Bishop Stephen Blaire and Monsignor Richard Ryan should have disclosed to Calaveras County parishioners information about a psychological examination performed on Kelly in 1999 that concluded the priest should be kept from ministering to children or families.
By withholding the test results and other abuse complaints against Kelly dating back to the 1970s, the Stockton Diocese created “the peril that ultimately damaged the Plaintiff,” the lawsuit alleges.
The plaintiff is represented by attorneys for Manly and Stewart, an Irvine law firm that earlier this year settled with the Stockton Diocese in a similar case for $3.75 million.
In that case, Travis Trotter, a 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.
Kelly testified in that case in April of this year, but left the country for his native Ireland days after a San Joaquin County jury found him liable of the sexual abuse claims. The former priest cited health problems related to the case as his reason for leaving the country.
The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office announced around the same time it had been investigating Kelly for several allegations of sexual abuse in the area while he was a pastor at St. Andrews Parish from 2000 to 2002.
Investigative reports were sent to the Calaveras County District Attorney’s Office, which has yet to file charges in the matter.
On Sept. 11, attorneys for Manly and Stewart filed another claim involving the alleged victim in the criminal investigation.
A now 24-year-old man says Kelly molested him while he and his family attended St. Andrews Parish when Kelly was head pastor.
That case is still working its way through the courts.
“I once again call upon law enforcement to track Michael Kelly down and return him to California to answer for his horrible crimes against innocent children,” attorney John Manly said in a written statement. “I reiterate that the Diocese of Stockton must be held responsible for Father Kelly’s crimes and its failure to protect the children in their parish.”
The Stockton Diocese’s offices were closed when contacted for comment Tuesday night.
Two separate people have also filed lawsuits this year against the Stockton Diocese accusing defrocked priest Oliver O’Grady of sexual abuse at St. Andrew’s Parish two decades ago.
A now 31-year-old San Andreas woman and 25-year-old Bay Area man are being represented by Sacramento attorney Joseph George in those cases.
O’Grady was convicted in 1993 of molesting two Turlock brothers while assigned to a church in that San Joaquin Valley town. He served seven years in Mule Creek State Prison in Ione before being paroled in 2000 and deported to his native Ireland.
The Stockton Diocese was ordered to pay the Turlock brothers $30 million following a civil lawsuit related to the criminal case, but that sum was later reduced to $7 million.
O’Grady’s crimes were the focus of the Academy Award-nominated 2006 documentary “Deliver Us From Evil,” where he can be seen boasting of molesting dozens of children as early as 1973.
He is now serving three years in an Irish prison for a child pornography conviction earlier this year.
Attorneys have pointed out that Kelly and O’Grady attended the same seminary while growing up in Ireland.
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