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Irish priest returns home in middle of US sexual abuse trial

Fr Michael Kelly was due to give testimony yesterday afternoon but has instead returned home to Ireland.

Image: Muffet via Flickr

AN IRISH PRIEST who was convicted in California of sexual misconduct against a former parishioner last month has fled the United States and returned to Ireland in advance of giving evidence at another point in the trial.

Fr Michael Kelly, 62, was convicted at San Joaquin County Court of misconduct against a student at a Stockton parish school over 25 years ago, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Although he had been convicted, he was still due to give evidence at a second phase of the trial, dealing with the diocese’s handling of the complaint against him – but Kelly instead left to return to Ireland, where he wants to “die with his family”.

In a letter hand-delivered to Bishop Stephen Blaire, Kelly said he was leaving his country due to poor health – he is reported to have lost considerable weight in the past fortnight – and again denied the accusations.

“I have spent the last 39 years of my life serving God and the people of the various parishes of the Diocese of Stockton,” the Bee quoted his letter as saying.

“Now I have not only lost my ministry, but this whole thing has taken its toll on my very being.”

Kelly’s attorney Thomas Beatty expressed understanding for Kelly’s decision to return home, but admitted it would have been helpful if he had remained in California to assist with the remainder of the trial.

Lawyers representing the plaintiff in the case accused Kelly of going “on the run from justice” after his own conviction.

Despite having lost his civil suit, no criminal charges could be brought against Kelly because the statute of limitations had expired, according to the Record of Stockton. The plaintiff in the case uncovered the memories of the abuse in 2005.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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Gavan Reilly

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