More victims come forward in case of convicted New Hanover Schools teacher

More victims have come forward in the case of convicted former New Hanover County Schools teacher Michael Kelly. A judge has agreed to let them join the lawsuit against the district.

At a hearing held on May 4, a judge granted a motion for additional victims to join the lawsuit pending against New Hanover County Public Schools.

The new victims have brought forward new allegations, with one claiming Kelly had given them alcohol and drugs prior to raping them.

WECT reported on the update:

During a Tuesday morning hearing, a judge granted the request to amend the complaint allowing the new plaintiffs to join the lawsuit, bringing the total number of victims up to 13. Along with the new plaintiffs come new allegations, this time, one of the anonymous plaintiffs claims Kelly gave him alcohol and even drugged him, before raping him.

The amended complaint also brings some new concerns to light with regards to the Board of Education and previous Title IX Compliance Officer and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Holliday. All of the new information aims to provide more context to the complaints and comes from a year’s worth of work, according to Martin Ramey, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The WECT report also brings up questions about the actions of former Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Holliday, who was also the Title IX Compliance Officer. Attorneys in the case amended their suit to claim Holliday was not qualified to serve as that officer:

The amended lawsuit also claims that Holliday was not qualified to serve as the district’s Title IX compliance officer and, during his tenure, there were just four Title IX investigations.

“Interestingly, between 1999 and 2018, there were at least 13 New Hanover County school employees that either resigned were terminated, or were dismissed for sexual assault incidents affecting students at New Hanover County Schools. There were at least an additional seven individuals who were reported to NHCBOE during that same time frame for allegations of sexual misconduct,” according to the amended complaint.

Holliday resigned in 2019 following news that the New Hanover Sheriff had opened an investigation.

A brief timeline of a serial abuser

February 2o18: Kelly is arrested and is initially charged with one count of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and three counts of indecent liberties with a student. His arrest was the result of a joint operation by the FBI and the New Hanover County Sheriff Department.

March 2018: More victims are discovered and more than a dozen new charges are 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

April 2018: Seven more victims are 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)

June of 2019: Kelly pleads guilty to the majority of the 61 felony charges that were pending against him. Kelly surrendered his teaching license to the state in July 2019. Judge John Nobles sentences Kelly to 16 to 24 years in prison on the most serious charges of child exploitation and statutory sex offense. Kelly’s additional 57 charges are consolidated for judgment, with Nobles adding a sentence of 20-84 months (up to 7 years) to be served following completion of the first sentence. 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.

July of 2019: Holliday resigned less than a week after the New Hanover Sheriff indicated an investigation had been opened into claims that the district was warned about a teacher sexually abusing students yet failed to act. Holliday has been named in the investigation by at least two sets of parents who had complained about Kelly and other teacher behavior, according to Port City Daily. The parents allege Holliday did not act and did not report the complaints to the district.

April of 2020: Four other victims are added to the civil lawsuit. The complaint document at that time included 10 John Does and graphic details.

Related: New Hanover Band teacher arrested on 12 felony counts (Updated: Teacher fired)

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a freelance journalist and is currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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