According to a recent media report, four more plaintiffs have been added to the civil suit filed against former New Hanover County Public Schools teacher Michael Kelly.
WECT reported on the additions to the Kelly civil suit:
Attorneys for the victims filed an amended complaint in the case Thursday, with the new additions bringing the total number of victims included in the lawsuit to 10.
The additional four victims were not part of the 59 counts of child sex crimes Kelly pleaded guilty to in June 2019 — attorneys said only four of the 10 were included in those proceedings — but instead came forward after the fact.
In the amended complaint, the group of plaintiffs re-allege the school system knew Kelly was preying on students, but doing nothing about it.
The complaint document includes 10 John Does and a number of graphic details.
The complaint states that Kelly groomed young boys for “a wide variety of inappropriate sexual activity.” Kelly also videotaped himself “performing oral sex on a young child” and liked to play a “game” in which he exposed his genitals to students.
According to the amended complaint, Kelly would engage in physical sexual contact with students “sometimes in public areas,” would touch the genitals of students and place his own genitals on the bodies of students. He would also give and received oral sex with students, masturbated in front of students and would invite them to his home for sexual encounters.
Tracking a mass abuser
This website has tracked the Michael Kelly case since he was first arrested over two years ago in February 2018.
At the time of the February 2018 arrest, Kelly was 48 years old. He was charged with one count of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and three counts of indecent liberties with a student. His initial arrest was the result of a joint operation by the FBI and the New Hanover County Sheriff Department. Kelly was issued a $100,000 secured bond and he was remanded to New Hanover County Detention Facility.
By Mar. 2, 2018, more victims had been discovered or had come forward. Over a dozen new charges were added. At that time, the full list of charges against Kelly included:
- One count statutory sex offense with a child
- Two counts solicitation to commit a felony
- Five counts of indecent liberties with a child
- Five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor
- Sixteen counts of indecent liberties with a student
With the additional charges added, his bond was increased to $1.5 million and he remained in the New Hanover County Detention Facility.
A month later, in April 2018, seven more victims of Kellys were identified and the number of felony charges rose to 59:
- 1 Count Indecent Liberties/Student (Bond: $1,000,000.00)
- 1 Count Statutory Sex Offense w/ Child Under 15 years old
- 3 Counts Solicitation to commit (Bond: $500,000.00)
- 1 Count Attempted Sexual Offense w/ Student
- 1 Count Sexual Exploitation of Minor (First Degree)
- 8 Counts Sexual Exploitation of Minor (Second Degree)
- 1 Count Sexual Exploitation of Minor (Third Degree)
- 23 Counts Indecent Liberties w/ Student (Bond: $500,000.00)
- 20 Counts Indecent Liberties w/ child (Bond: $100,000.00)
In December 2018, a report by the Southern Coalition for Equal Protections Under the Law (SCEPUL) accused New Hanover Public Schools of the cover-up of sexual abuse cases and racial discrimination.
2019: Bond rises to $2.1 million and a guilty plea
In January of 2019, Kelly’s bond had been increased again from $1.5 million to $2.1 million.
On June 25, 2019, Michael Earl Kelly pleaded guilty to nearly every charge levied against him. He was sentenced by Judge John Nobles to 16 to 24 years in prison on the most serious charges of child exploitation and statutory sex offense.
Kelly’s additional 57 charges were consolidated for judgment. For those charges that were consolidated, the judge added a sentence of 20-84 months (up to 7 years) to be served following completion of the first sentence.
Current incarceration records reflect the judge’s order. Kelly will serve a maximum of 24 years and three months and a maximum of an additional 7 years following the completion of the first sentence.
As part of his sentencing, Kelly was ordered to undergo sex offender accountability therapy and was required to register as a sex offender for a period of no less than 30 years. Additionally, Kelly can have no contact with any of his victims.
Kelly “voluntarily” surrendered teaching license, resignations follow
Neither the education officials in New Hanover Public Schools nor the State Board of Education revoked Kelly’s license. Instead, on July 1, 2019, Michael Earl Kelly was allowed to “voluntarily surrender” his North Carolina teaching license.
Kelly’s abuse went on for over two decades and involving at least 20 children while he was a teacher at Isaac Bear Early College High School and Laney High.
At the time Kelly was abusing students at Laney High School in the late ’80s, Rick Holliday was the Assistant Principal.
Holliday rose through the administrative ranks through the years to Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services. In the month following Kelly’s guilty plea, Holliday resigned from that role.
Holliday’s resignation coincided with the announcement the week prior by the New Hanover sheriff that an investigation was being opened. The New Hanover Sheriff had been asked to look into claims that the district did not act on information the district received about Kelly.
Not long after the New Hanover sheriff’s department began an investigation, the New Hanover District Attorney Ben David and Sheriff Ed McMahon issued a joint statement that the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) was being asked to take over the investigation.
Civil Suit Filed
By the end of July, a civil suit had been filed against the New Hanover County Public School System. The 44-page class-action complaint was filed by the Rhine and the Lea/Shultz law firms on behalf of multiple John Doe victims and all others “similarly situated.”
The complaint alleges the school district is “vicariously liable” for the actions of Michael Kelly and demands $25,000 in damages for each plaintiff as well as punitive damages, legal and court fees and for a ”trial by jury on all issues so triable.”
Named as defendants are the New Hanover County School Board, Michael Kelly, James Rick “Rickie” Holliday and Holliday’s direct supervisor, New Hanover Superintendent Timothy Markley. Ten other unnamed New Hanover Public School employees or contractors, designated as “Roes 1-10,” are also listed as defendants.
In February of 2020, the New Hanover County School Board announced the resignation of Superintendent Tim Markley. Markley was given $195,000 in severance pay and was paid an additional $32,966.66 for benefits.
“The board believes that separating from Dr. Markley is the best solution to move this system forward,” board chair Lisa Estep said in a statement at the time.
Another investigation in another district
The Rhine law firm, who is leading the civil case in New Hanover, recently announced they are also conducting a civil investigation involving a Guilford County Public Schools teacher who was arrested in March of this year for multiple counts of sexual assault of a student.
The firm said in a press release that they are representing a student who alleges they were sexually assaulted by Christopher Arnell Holland and that the firm is focusing on if the district knew about Holland’s activities. The firm published a letter to Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras that contains a records request for materials pertaining to