After five days of testimony and 12 hours of deliberation, a Williamson County jury reached a guilty verdict. Greg Kelley accepted a sentence of 25 years in prison and gave up his right to appeal. The case was supposed to be over.
But it’s not, at least as far as his supporters are concerned.
An attorney for Kelley is seeking a new trial, claiming he has new evidence that Kelley was barely around the 4-year-old boy he was convicted of molesting last year at a Cedar Park day care. That attorney also filed an affidavit last week from a juror saying he didn’t believe Kelley was guilty but felt pressured to convict.
The supporters of the 19-year-old former Leander High School football player have held rallies and gathered 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Attorney General Greg Abbott to help get the case retried. They have also raised $35,000 for his defense and have a Facebook page called “Fight for GK,” where one real estate agent offered to donate $500 to Kelley’s defense fund if the buyer or seller of a home requests it.
The second-guessing of the process and the July 15 verdict drew strong words from Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix, as the case has grown beyond the courtroom and become the focus of public debate.
Kelley’s supporters are “not recognizing that with every little rally they hold they are subjecting the families of the victims to re-victimization and possibly stifling future sexual assault victims that are seeing this rapid support of a convicted child rapist,” read a July 30 email that Mannix sent to his officers.
“The fight for GK (Greg Kelley) movement has taken on a cult-like appearance, as it is mostly high school kids that have only been exposed to the news reports and what fellow supporters have told them, with no interest in seeking the truth,” Mannix wrote, adding the movement “has been fueled by what I can only characterize as some of the most biased news coverage of a trial that I have ever encountered.”
Doug Douglas, one of Kelley’s supporters, said most of Kelley’s supporters are not high school students but are “business leaders, professionals, executives, other hard-working citizens and voters.” Douglas, a self-employed consultant, said he got interested in Kelley’s case because his daughter went to Leander High School, where Kelley was a student.
“Do we ignore an injustice that has occurred because it might make other people feel bad?” Douglas said.
During the trial, one of the two 4-year-olds who had accused Kelley of molestation changed his story, and jurors found Kelley not guilty of that charge.
The other boy gave a detailed account of being sexually assaulted by Kelley. In a taped interview with investigators, though, the boy also said his mother walked in during the assault and a fight broke out, an event that everyone agrees never happened.
The juror who now says he was pressured to convict Kelley said the jury played the child’s taped interview twice while deliberating. “I pointed out he could not get his story straight, but they (the jury) would not listen,” the juror said in the affidavit.
But making a motion for new trial in a child sexual assault case is “an uphill battle,” said Joe Turner, an Austin trial attorney not connected to this case. “Jurors are willing to forgive inconsistencies in the testimonies of minors … it’s harder for them to look at it in a neutral unemotional state.”
Turner also said “the trial courts — and this goes for appellate courts — care more about finality than accuracy, so they don’t like to overturn jury verdicts.”
Kelley’s new attorney, Keith Hampton, is trying anyway. He filed a pair of motions last week for a new trial. One hinges on two issues: the affidavit of the juror who says he disagreed with the verdict and evidence the jury never heard during the trial, including the fact that the father of the 4-year-old boy said his son sometimes “lies.” The second amended motion promises other evidence suggesting Kelley was not around the day care for at least 183 of the 192 days the child was there.
The day care, now closed, was run out of the home of one of Kelley’s classmates. Kelley stayed with that friend temporarily while his own parents were in the hospital.
Williamson County First Assistant District Attorney Mark Brunner said Friday that multiple witnesses, including Kelley himself, said Kelley was at the day care at times when the child was there.
“The state was not required to prove, nor did we allege, that Greg Kelley was around this child ‘most of the time,’ ” Brunner said.
The trial judge, Billy Ray Stubblefield, must decide whether to grant a hearing on the motion, which must be held by Sept. 29. The state will file a response to the motion next week, Brunner said.
In his words
Greg Kelley recently spoke with the American-Statesman in a phone interview from the Williamson County Jail. Here are some excerpts:
On why he turned down a pretrial plea deal for 20 years of probation and a requirement to register as a sex offender: “I believed I didn’t deserve anything less than freedom.”
On the testimony of the boy he was convicted of assaulting: “He’s being really untruthful about me. I never would have done anything that sick.”
On his decision to accept a 25-year prison sentence in exchange for giving up his right to appeal: “What I saw was 25 years with hope for me to get out when I am 44 and be with my family, versus a jury that might give me up to life without parole.”
On how he’s spending his time in jail: “I write about five hours a day because I have so much mail from my supporters.”
On how he is preparing to spend the next 25 years behind bars: “I plan on keeping on living by my principles and helping and counseling people that are seeking Jesus and the word of God.”
On what he wants people to know about him: “For the people who don’t know me, I am all about helping people in need. I follow the word of God, and every day I try to be more like Jesus.”