- Tony Plohetski American-Statesman Staff, KVUE News
The largest police union in Texas is weighing in on the sexual assault conviction of a former high school football star, urging the state’s highest criminal court to deny his appeal and supporting a police investigator whose work has been sharply criticized in the case.
The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, or CLEAT, is the first entity to defend Cedar Park police Detective Chris Dailey’s handling of the case against Greg Kelley, who has been released from jail on bond while his case is considered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
The police group’s action move comes as others — including Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick, Kelley’s attorney and a Texas Ranger assigned this spring to investigate the case — have in recent months condemned the work of Dailey and the Cedar Park Police Department in the case. Last month, a Williamson County state district judge cited a “deficient” police investigation as one of several reasons the appeals court should overturn Kelley’s conviction and declare him innocent.
In a 28-page document, attorneys for CLEAT wrote that Dailey acted in good faith while investigating Kelley in 2013, that he trusted and believed a 4-year-old boy who named Kelley as his abuser, and that he did not have a legal obligation to “exclude all possible theories and suspects” to avoid violating Kelley’s rights.
Dailey, who is a CLEAT member, has been criticized for not looking into other suspects, including Johnathan McCarty, whose mother operated a child care facility where the abuse is believed to have occurred and whom prosecutors have named as a suspect. He also did not investigate another man who had access to the children and who, as a juvenile, had been charged with child indecency, officials have said.
“Dailey reasonably and in good faith conducted the investigation for the best interest and well-being of the victims without any outrageous disregard to (Kelley’s) due process rights,” the filing said.
According to the document, Dailey attempted to interview Kelley prior to charging him but that Kelley’s defense attorney declined to let police question him about his possible involvement. Police have suggested that had Kelley cooperated, he could have provided valuable information that could have refocused the investigation.
In an interview in May with the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV, Kelley contradicted that, saying, “The guy who was assigned to my case he never interviewed me, never brought me in, never talked to me. He didn’t spend one second with me. He didn’t believe he needed to, and I was willing to talk to him.”
The documents filed by the union included an affidavit from Geoffrey Puryear, a former Williamson County prosecutor who tried the case, that said, “Based on the conversations I had with Detective Dailey, he left Mr. Kelley a voicemail that he was attempting to speak to him regarding the allegations that had been made and that he wanted to speak to Mr. Kelley regarding his side of the story. Detective Dailey then received a phone call within a week from (Kelley’s attorney) that he did not wish to speak to police.”
Puryear further states that he was not contacted by prosecutors about his work in the case until late August — several weeks after a hearing in which Kelley’s legal team presented evidence about why his conviction should be overturned. CLEAT wrote that Puryear had valuable information relating to Dailey’s work.
Dick, the Williamson County DA, said Tuesday, “We did reach out to the prosecution team prior to the hearing and since the hearing, we have also reached out specifically to Mr. Puryear, who declined to respond to our requests but instead chose to submit his affidavit to CLEAT.”
The document filed by CLEAT said that for the court to overturn Kelley’s conviction on a due process claim related to the police investigation, Kelley must demonstrate that investigators’ conduct “is so outrageous, egregious, reckless or intentional that it shocks the conscience.”
Instead, the document said, Dailey took proper care, interviewing possible victims at a child advocacy center, speaking to the owner of the day care facility, parents whose children attended the day care center and “diligently worked with the (Child Protective Services) investigator where he gathered sufficient probable cause evidence to lead to the arrest of the suspect.”
The organization told the appeals court that overturning Kelley’s conviction would set a dangerous precedent and open the door for other cases to be overturned.
The document also said the recent recommendations by state District Judge Donna King did not take into account that a jury heard all of the evidence and still convicted Kelley.
“The jury was afforded the opportunity to weigh the credibility of Dailey’s testimony and essentially the credibility of Dailey’s investigation,” it said.
David Schulman, an Austin attorney who often deals with such appeals, said the union appears to be trying to support its member and that the appeals court is not legally bound to consider its opinion.
“If they do, we will probably not know,” he said.
He said the court will instead focus on whether King’s legal conclusions in the case are supported by the court record.