A Californian diocese has agreed to pay $3.75m (€2.8m) to a man abused as a child by the Tipperary priest who last week fled the US to return to Ireland.
On Apr 6, Fr Michael Kelly, who maintains his innocence, was found “liable” of sexual misconduct against the then 10-year-old boy in the Stockton diocese more than 20 years ago.
The victim has now waived his anonymity and identified himself as Travis Trotter, a former altar boy at the Cathedral of the Annunciation.
Fr Kelly is also separately under criminal investigation by US authorities over accusations of abuse in another county.
He could not be charged criminally with assault in the first case because Mr Trotter, 37, only recovered the memories of the abuse in 2006, which was past the statute of limitations for a criminal conviction.
Fr Kelly had been due to give evidence at the start of last week on the second phase of his civil trial for sex abuse — the part investigating Bishop of Stockton Stephen Blaire and the Stockton diocese over their handling of the complaint.
However, on the eve of giving his evidence, Bishop Blaire received a letter from Fr Kelly saying he was on his way back to Ireland, that he was suffering from “chronic bowel problems”, and that he was “physically and mentally spent” from the “vicious false allegations that had been spread about him over the last four and a half years”.
Fr Kelly said he wanted to be with his family, “whose support and love for me is unconditional”.
The case continued in his absence and resulted in the diocese settling the civil lawsuit and paying €3.75m to Mr Trotter.
Mr Trotter said the emotional fallout from the abuse had prevented him from becoming a pilot.
“This four and a half years of litigation and 10-week trial has been the most difficult experience of my life, but I feel I have received justice today, not for me, but for that 10-year-old boy who Fr Kelly hurt so badly,” he said following the settlement.
While a separate criminal investigation against Fr Kelly in San Andreas, California, began after a claim by a former altar boy that he was abused in the early 2000s, police there say investigators have identified additional alleged victims and need to conduct more interviews.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved