22 Dec 2007

Diocese faces new abuse suit

The Record - Stockton, California

December 20, 2007

Woman says she also was victim of ex-Lodi priest

by Anna Kaplan - Record Staff Writer

STOCKTON - A new lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Stockton alleges that former priest Oliver O'Grady sexually abused another child while serving in Lodi in the 1970s.

A 43-year-old female plaintiff filed the suit anonymously, claiming she was a student of O'Grady's at St. Anne's parish school in the early to mid-'70s when the abuse took place.

It is one of many such suits against O'Grady, who served prison time for child molestation and then became the subject of an award-winning documentary about his crimes.

O'Grady was convicted in 1993 of molesting two boys, served seven years in Ione's Mule Creek State Prison and was deported to Ireland in 2000. He disappeared after the documentary, "Deliver Us from Evil," came out in theaters, according to reports by U.S. and Irish newspapers.

A year ago, a 42-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman each filed lawsuits alleging abuse by the defrocked priest. Both suits were dismissed and are being appealed, said attorney M. Ryan DiMaria of Newport Beach law firm Manly, McGuire and Stewart, which has represented many plaintiffs in clergy abuse cases, including the one that sent O'Grady to prison.

Manly, McGuire and Stewart is not representing this new case, but DiMaria said the Diocese of Stockton can expect more victims to press charges.

"They've known that O'Grady was a prolific molester since the beginning of his priesthood, so it doesn't surprise me that there's another victim coming forward," he said.

The suits brought against the diocese regarding O'Grady have been "too many to even count," said diocese spokeswoman Sister Terry Davis.

In 2004, Stockton Bishop Stephen Blaire issued an apology for the actions of 10 priests who had brought 29 counts of sexual abuse to the diocese since its founding in 1962.

Last month, a 21-year-old female plaintiff dropped her case against the diocese that claimed the late Lodi priest Murty Fahy abused her for three years beginning when she was in the second grade at St. Anne's in Lodi.

In October, The Record reported the diocese placed Lockeford priest Michael Kelly on administrative leave after allegations surfaced that he'd sexually abused a boy in a Stockton parish in the 1980s.



  1. Priest finding support in wake of molestation ruling, many rally to Michael Kelly's defense

    By Jennie Rodriguez-Moore, Record Staff Writer
    April 10, 2012

    STOCKTON - There's a wave of support for former Catholic priest Michael Kelly even after a civil jury found him liable for sexually molesting an altar boy more than 20 years ago.

    Friday's verdict disheartened a slew of parishioners from St. Joachim Church in Locke-ford and other supporters even while advocates of the plaintiff rejoiced.

    They said civil justice would have to suffice, since criminal charges couldn't be filed because of the statute of limitations.

    The Diocese of Stockton removed Kelly from ministry Friday immediately after the verdict at San Joaquin County Superior Court.

    "All the parishioners, everybody who knows Father Kelly, are devastated," said Christine Brandstad, a Linden resident who attends St. Joachim, where Kelly was pastor. "He is the most beloved priest we've ever known."

    An emotional crowd gathered at the Lockeford church Friday to hear Kelly speak and reiterate that he has been falsely accused.

    Kelly's removal is spurring a committee of followers to continue finding ways to support him, and they hope he can still be exonerated. Brandstad plans to attend meetings.

    "I don't feel the jurors ever got a true feel of who Father Kelly is," said Brandstad, 55. "Child sexual molestation is the most heinous crime in this Earth, but this man, this priest, is not capable of it."

    Identified in court papers as John TZ Doe, the plaintiff is a 37-year-old former altar boy at Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton, where Kelly served during the 1980s.

    Doe said he recovered memories he had repressed since childhood of Kelly molesting him in a home, a motel and a rectory. He also said the priest raped him in a wooded area when the boy thought they were only going on a hike.

    Thomas Beatty, one of the defense attorneys on the case, said he and Kelly are discussing whether to appeal the decision.

    "Everything he knows and loved has been stripped from him," Beatty said.

    Beatty believes the outcome might have been different if the results of a polygraph test would have been admitted into the trial. Kelly passed the test commissioned by the diocese, Beatty said.

    The defense described Kelly as a playful young priest who roughhoused and tickled children during his early years. But they said he never sexually touched children.

    "In my opinion, he used the kids to get to us," said Doug Bennet, a 63-year-old Stockton resident who met Kelly at Annunciation.

    "He would play with the kids for a few minutes, get them all fired up, then he would come to talk to the family."

    Bennet sent an email to The Record to express his dissatisfaction with the verdict.

    Jean Walker Lowell, who came from Modesto to observe the trial for weeks, said she has known Kelly for more than 40 years and trusted him with her own children.

    "I'm totally devastated is what I am," said Walker, 78. "It's very emotional for me.

    "My son was an altar boy for him. He was one of his soccer players. My son died and (Kelly) says Mass every year for him."

    At least seven letters were submitted to The Record's Opinion section in support of Kelly.

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    One letter writer, Denise Drewry of Manteca, said her son was an altar boy at St. Bernard's Church in Tracy when Kelly served there in the late 1970s. She said her children loved Kelly.

    "(Father) Kelly is an exemplary priest who has now lost his position and his reputation," Drewry said in her letter. "Unfortunately, it is all of us who have really lost."

    The plaintiff's attorney, Newport Beach-based John Manly, said he isn't surprised by the reactions.

    "Pedophiles are nice people. That's how they get access to kids," Manly said. "Oliver O'Grady still is one of the most charming people you will ever meet. But he's a monster."

    O'Grady, who was convicted in San Joaquin County of sexually molesting children, was defrocked by the church over the criminal charges.

    Manly said the polygraph test does not prove Kelly's innocence.

    "People who are sociopathic pass polygraph tests," he said. "If polygraph were the standard for determining truth, we wouldn't have trials."

    Manly said there's more evidence about Kelly's conduct to come in the second phase of the trial.

    "If people saw his file and knew what was in it, there would be a different viewpoint," Manly said.

    During the first phase of the trial, a seven-week segment, the courtroom was full of Kelly's advocates.

    One of the parishioners was barred from the trial after approaching a juror and attempting to persuade that person.

    Amid the audience were a few supporters for the plaintiff.

    Tim Lennon, a San Francisco representative of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, felt his presence among the audience provided a little balance. He primarily wanted to show the plaintiff support.

    "I was raped and abused when I was 13," Lennon said. "To me, that was a traumatic, overwhelming, devastating and crippling event.

    "When I look at that young man and understand he was raped and abused when he was 10, it is beyond belief that a crime can be committed against that child."

    Lennon said during the past weeks, he heard parishioners in the audience make comments in a quiet voice about the plaintiff.

    "My view is that in general, people that tell stories of abuse need to be believed," Lennon said.

    The second phase of the trial will continue Wednesday and will focus on the diocese's handling of Kelly and whether Bishop Stephen Blaire and Monsignor Richard J. Ryan are also liable for damages.


  3. Sex Abuse Victims Urge Bishop to Rein in Parishioners


    A support group for victims of clergy sex abuse is calling on Stockton’s Catholic bishop to “rein in his flock” after parishioners rallied around a priest who was found guilty of sexually molesting an altar boy.

    Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are writing Bishop Stephen Blaire about some church-goers at St. Joachim Parish in Lockeford who are backing Fr. Michael Kelly. After a two month civil trial, jurors determined that Kelly sexually abused a child.

    SNAP says that the public actions by parishioners – both during the trial and since – have been insensitive to victims and will likely deter others who may have seen, suspected, or suffered child sex crimes from coming forward.

    During the trial, a minority of parishioners from St. Joachim and elsewhere packed the courthouse in support of Kelly. One parishioner approached a member of the jury, trying to persuade him to let Kelly go. Some of Kelly’s backers have also written letters to newspapers admonishing those who have accused Kelly of wrongdoing.

    “It’s dangerous because it creates a hostile atmosphere where others who may have knowledge of this abuse, or other abuse, will be afraid to come forward,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP’s director. “Bishop Blaire should step forward to rein in his flock and help them find ways to show support for their priest that don’t involve intimidating victims.”

    SNAP is encouraging parishioners to NOT hold future rallies either in their parishes or near the courtroom in an effort to prevent victims and witnesses from being intimidated. They also are sending a letter to Bishop Blaire to encourage him to prevent the further stifling of victims.

    With the second half of the trial – the phase in which the possible culpability of Stockton church officials will be determined – set to begin on Wednesday, April 10, SNAP is hopes that the bishop will use his influence to help prevent the trial from becoming a spectacle.

    “We want the truth to come out,” said Clohessy, “and if folks are too afraid to come forward then it will stay buried. We urge the bishop to do everything in his power to allow the justice process to continue without interruptions or tampering.”

    The Diocese is being represented by Thomas Beatty of the McNamara Law Firm. Beatty can be reached at thomas.beatty@mcnamaralaw.com, or by calling 707.427.3998. The Diocese of Stockton can be reached at 209.466.0636.