The former New Hanover County Public Schools teacher who racked up over 60 sex-related charges since first being arrested in 2018 has pleaded guilty to nearly all of them.
Michael Earl Kelly, age 50, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, June 25 to felony charges that included sexual exploitation of minor, indecent liberties with a student, and indecent liberties with a child.
Kelly was sentenced by Judge John Nobles to 16 to 24 years in prison on the most serious charge of first-degree Sexual Exploitation of a minor and Statutory Sex Offense with a child.
Judge Nobles added a sentence of 20-84 months (up to 7 years) to be served following completion of the first sentence for Kelly’s additional 57 charges which were consolidated for judgment.
The sentences together add up to between 17 ½ years and 31 ¼ years in prison. If Kelly serves the maximum, he will be 91 when released.
As part of his sentencing, Kelly will be given sex offender accountability therapy and is required to register as a sex offender for a period of 30 years. Kelly can have no contact with any of his victims and may be eligible for work release in the future.
According to WECT, before he was sentenced Kelly “apologized to Jesus, his family, his friends, and his wife and child, but not directly to the victims or their families that gathered for Tuesday’s court appearance.”
Kelly’s charge list as of January 15, 2019, courtesy of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s office:
|1 COUNT SEXUAL EXPLOITATION MINOR FIRST DEG||INCLUDED IN OTHER CHARGES $0.00|
|1 COUNT SEXUAL EXPLOITATION MINOR THIRD DEG||INCLUDED IN OTHER CHARGES $0.00|
|1 COUNT SEXUAL OFFENSE STUDENT(F) – ATTEMPT||INCLUDED IN OTHER CHARGES $0.00|
|1 COUNT STAT SEX OFF WITH CHILD <=15||INCLUDED IN OTHER CHARGES $0.00|
|3 COUNTS SOLICITATION TO COMMIT (F)||SECURED BOND $500,000.00|
|8 COUNTS SEXUAL EXPLOITATION MINOR SECOND DEG||INCLUDED IN OTHER CHARGES $0.00|
|20 COUNTS INDECENT LIBERTIES W/ CHILD||SECURED BOND $100,000.00|
|24 COUNTS INDECENT LIBERTIES STUDENT (F)||SECURED BOND $1,500,000.00|
Eight victims, ages ranging from 11 to 17, were identified during the investigation and the district was warned about Kelly sixteen years ago, according to an investigation by WECT.
The WECT investigation uncovered a complaint which had been filed by a parent in 2004 which detailed Kelly’s inappropriate and sometimes disturbing behavior. The parent told WECT that the district ignored her warnings and that Kelly later retaliated against her son by docking his grades.
It’s worth noting that while the district ignored the warning, ten years later Supt. Markley was accused of having a relationship with his direct subordinate, former administrative assistant Stephanie Baltezegar.
This blog has followed the Kelly case since the beginning when he was first charged in early February of 2018 at the age of 48. The first round of charges included third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, and three counts of indecent liberties with a student. At his first hearing, Kelly was assigned a $100,000 bond.
According to the original arrest warrant, Kelly allegedly possessed images of a 15-year-old victim. The images were graphic and included “engaging in sexual activity consisting of holding his erect penis in his hand.”
New Hanover County schools suspended Kelly without pay after his arrest, but in early March of 2018, the district terminated his employment. Superintendent Tim Markley indicated he had begun the dismissal process after Kelly was arrested in February.
Just a few months after his original arrest, more victims were identified and 34 more charges added. But by April, the charge count grew to 59 when 7 more victims of Kelly’s were identified.
A $1.5 million was placed on Michael Kelly in April but records show that it has since been increased to $2.1 million. Kelly remained incarcerated at the New Hanover County Detention Facility throughout his trial.
In June of 2018, seven principals and five assistant principals abruptly resigned, including those at Isaac Bear Elementary where Kelly had worked.
Late in December of 2018, a report produced by the Southern Coalition for Equal Protections Under the Law (SCEPUL) accused the New Hanover Public school system of the cover-up of sexual abuses cases and racial discrimination.
One of the cases of sexual misconduct that SCEPUL highlighted was that of Michael Kelly. As of June, the New Hanover County Public schools system has refused to investigate, but the New Hanover Sheriff’s department is now looking into the allegations made by SCEPUL.
As of the writing of this article, Kelly’s NC teaching license is still valid and active. Unless revoked, it will not expire until 06/30/2022.
The NC teacher licensing revocation and the disciplinary action page has not been updated in months and the Dept. of Public Instruction has not responded to my inquiry to confirm or deny that Supt. Johnson has dozens of unexecuted license revocations on his desk.