AG Bonta to probe Calaveras DA’s decision to drop sex assault charges against Catholic priest

Attorney General Rob Bonta is taking an unprecedented step to probe alleged mishandling of a prosecution against a Catholic priest indicted for sex assault.

California’s Attorney General will investigate the decision made by Calaveras County District Attorney to drop charges against Father Michael Kelly, an indicted priest accused of numerous sexual crimes against children.

The investigation comes after news reports highlighted concerns about the handling of the case and the lack of efforts made to extradite Kelly from Ireland, where he currently resides.


The backstory: The charges against Kelly, who served at Our Lady of Fatima in Modesto in the 1970s, were dropped after one of the victims, Trevor Martin, died in a base jumping accident.

  • The investigation revealed several troubling findings, including an initial admission that the Calaveras County DA lost of the entire grand jury testimony and paper indictment,
  • It also found potential violation of constitutional rights under Marsy’s Law, a victim’s rights law approved by voters in 2008, against Martin’s mother and Martin himself,
  • The Calaveras County DA also allegedly failed to inform the victim about Kelly’s arrest in Morocco.

Driving the news: Attorney General Rob Bonta’s investigation opens up the possibility of refiling charges, taking over the case, and leading a high-profile effort to extradite Kelly from Ireland.

  • Martin’s mother, Deanna Hampton, wrote a letter to the Attorney General’s Office requesting an investigation and expressing her belief that justice was denied to both her son and herself.
  • The investigation will likely focus on whether Trevor’s and Hampton’s constitutional rights were violated under Marsy’s Law,.

Beyond the case: The California Department of Justice is aiming to publish a comprehensive report similar to the grand jury report in Pennsylvania in 2018 on Catholic sex abuse.

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