Father Michael Kelly stated emphatically under oath on Tuesday that he has never sexually assaulted a child.
Kelly, pastor at St. Joachim's Catholic Church in Lockeford the past eight years, is defending himself in a lawsuit on a sexual assault allegation by a 37-year-old man who was an altar boy in the 1980s. Kelly maintains that such a thing never happened.
"His recollection is completely different from mine," Kelly said of the plaintiff, who attended Church of the Annunciation in Stockton and attended the church's parochial school in the 1980s.
The plaintiff has said the alleged incident took place when Kelly, then about 35, was a priest at Church of the Annunciation in Stockton. Kelly has never been criminally charged regarding the incident. The plaintiff's name is being withheld by court order because he is a potential sexual assault victim.
Kelly was called to the witness stand Tuesday by John Manly, the plaintiff's attorney. Attorneys for Kelly and the Stockton Diocese have yet to question Kelly. That may happen in court today if Manly completes his questioning.
Although Kelly denied ever sexually assaulting the plaintiff or anyone else, he admitted that he was immature in the 1980s, when he tickled, played games with children and babysat.
"I realize that my behavior was very immature," Kelly said. "I was really disgusted at myself for my own immaturity."
Although previous witnesses said that Kelly babysat or offered to do so many times, Kelly said he babysat only twice since becoming a priest in the 1970s. One time was for the plaintiff's family in the mid-1980s, and another time was for a different family in 1979.
Manly, the plaintiff's attorney from Newport Beach, accused Kelly of lying under oath in a 2009 deposition and in 2007, when three diocese officials asked him about the plaintiff's allegations.
Reading from a transcript of Kelly's 2009 deposition, Manly noted that in September 2007, Kelly didn't tell Monsignor Richard Ryan and Chancellor Sister Barbara Thiella that he had babysat the plaintiff.
"You lied," Manly told Kelly.
"No, I did not lie," Kelly responded. "I didn't remember."
Kelly added that the fact that he babysat the plaintiff one time didn't occur to him when questioned privately by Ryan and Thiella. His focus was on their questions about the sexual assault allegations, Kelly said.
But two or three days later, Kelly said, he remembered that he babysat the plaintiff, so he told his attorney and asked the attorney to forward the information to Thiella and Ryan.
Manly told Kelly, "You knew you hadn't told the complete truth from the start."
Kelly replied, "I had my attorney let them know."
Manly also questioned Kelly about the priest's voluntary statement that he was very nervous when giving his deposition and less nervous on the witness stand Tuesday.
"Do you believe your nerves (during the deposition) made you answer questions untruthfully?" Manly asked. "Is there something that I'm missing?"
Kelly didn't respond to Manly's question, but he said several times throughout the day that he told the truth in the deposition in 2009 and was telling the truth on the witness stand Tuesday.
Kelly's testimony will continue at 10 a.m. today at San Joaquin County Superior Court, 222 E. Weber Ave., Department 42, fourth floor, Stockton.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.