Now that Michael Kelly has left the United States for his native Ireland and is not expected to return in the near future, attorneys are relying on other witnesses to piece together the second phase of Kelly's sexual abuse trial.
San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt on Wednesday told jurors that if they believe that Kelly left the country with the intent to suppress evidence, they have the right to distrust or completely disbelieve anything Kelly said in deposition.
Attorney Tom Beatty, who represents Kelly, said Wednesday that he had offered for Kelly to testify from Ireland on video, but the plaintiff's attorney, John Manly, declined the offer.
Kelly, 62, pastor of St. Joachim's Catholic Church in Lockeford for the past eight years until he was removed from priestly duties in the Stockton Diocese on April 6, was subpoenaed to testify Wednesday in San Joaquin County Superior Court, but he left for Ireland sometime during the weekend.
During testimony Wednesday morning, Vicar General Monsignor Richard Ryan, the second-ranking Stockton Diocese official, testified that a Bay Area psychologist recommended in a report around 2000 that Kelly be reassigned to a job in the diocese in which he wasn't around children and their families due to potential pedophiliac tendencies.
Ryan testified that only he, diocese Bishop Stephen Blaire and diocese attorney Paul Balestracci knew about the psychologist's recommendation. Ryan also said that four people attending Church of the Presentation in Stockton had said they were uncomfortable with Kelly being around their children.
Manly, representing the plaintiff in the civil trial against Kelly and the diocese, asked Ryan on Wednesday if he had discussed with Blaire whether the four parents' concerns should be reported to Childhood Protective Services, Stockton police or the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office.
Ryan responded that he hadn't.
Manly then asked if the matter had been submitted to the Priest Personnel Board, a group that recommends to the bishop where priests should be assigned within the diocese. Ryan testified that Kelly was on the Priest Personnel Board at the time.
Ryan said he didn't bring the issue to the board because none of the parents who contacted the diocese said that Kelly had sexually abused a child — he committed inappropriate conduct, but not sexual abuse.
Several witnesses testified during the trial's first phase that Kelly tickled their children aggressively and roughhoused with children.
Ryan talked about sending Kelly to St. John Vianney Center in Philadelphia more than 10 years ago to be examined for possible pedophilia. Parishioners were told he was on sabbatical.
According to its website, St. John Vianney Center is a nonprofit organization serves clergy and religious professionals with behavioral disorders and psychiatric illnesses; patients include Catholic priests and clergy from other major Christian denominations.
St. John Vianney is a faith-based provider of health care in keeping with the ethical and religious values of the Catholic church, according to the website.
Kelly returned to Ireland about a week after the 10-woman, two-man jury found Kelly civilly liable of sexually assaulting a former Stockton altar boy in the mid-1980s on April 6. Kelly has not been charged criminally because the statute of limitations had expired.
The trial is now in its second phase, where the jury will determine whether the Stockton Diocese is liable of not appropriately dealing with allegations against Kelly.
Manly also questioned Ryan about Kelly's reputation as a "prolific fundraiser." Kelly led a fundraising drive to rebuild Church of the Presentation after the Stockton church was severely burned in a 1999 arson fire. Kelly was Presentation's pastor at the time. Kelly raised $6 million to rebuild Presentation, but Ryan said that the fundraising effort wasn't a factor in how to cope with allegations against Kelly.
Testimony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. today in Department 42 at Superior Court. A liability expert, Dr. William Bainbridge, is scheduled to testify on behalf of the plaintiff, Manly said. The plaintiff's name is not being released because of a court order.
At 9:30 a.m., McNatt is scheduled to rule on Manly's motion to charge Cardinal Roger Mahony with contempt of court regarding his alleged failure to be available to testify in the trial.
Mahony, who was bishop of the Stockton Diocese from 1980 to 1985, retired a year ago as bishop of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. He is in Rome for a "state of the diocese" report with Pope Benedict XVI.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.