Additional victims added in Mike Kelly lawsuit

Updated: Apr. 17, 2020 at 11:08 AM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Four additional plaintiffs have been added to the civil suit against former New Hanover County Schools teacher Michael Kelly and school system leadership.

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.

WECT reached out to NHCS, and a spokesperson said the district has no comment at this time.

***Warning: This story contains graphic details about alleged sexual abuse of minors. Reader discretion is advised***

The complaint reads: “The New Hanover County Schools’ administration failed to comply with its legal and moral obligations to report Kelly’s behavior to law enforcement, failed to perform adequate investigations, and failed to take action to remove this pedophile from our schools. Instead, the administration ignored multiple complaints brought by students, parents and even staff and ignored evidence that they had been provided with or otherwise had access to - doing nothing to prevent Kelly from preying on future victims.”

Plaintiffs allege former Deputy Superintendent Rick Holliday, and by extension the school system, was aware of inappropriate conduct by Kelly as far back as 1993 when a student reportedly told Holliday about an inappropriate comment made in class that was of a sexual nature.

The suit alleges Kelly’s predatory behavior continued through his tenure until his arrest in February 2018.

Like the original plaintiffs, the four new victims have been listed as “John Doe” and numbered to protect their privacy.

According to the complaint, two of the victims were students of Kelly’s when he was a teacher at E.A. Laney High School, and the alleged abuse occurred there between 2001 and 2006. The other two were students of Kelly’s at Isaac Bear Early College High School between 2008 and 2014.

The first of the Laney students, who was a student of Kelly’s from 2001 to 2004, claims Kelly engaged with the student in inappropriate discussions about sex on multiple occassions. Additionally, Kelly allegedly exposed his genitals to the student, as well as pornographic images and videos.

The complaint details accounts of Kelly taking the student to a sauna at a local YMCA, where he allegedly coerced the student into taking off his shorts and then touched himself “as if he were masturbating.”

The other Laney student, also alleges Kelly engaged in frequent inappropriate discussions about sex, exposed his genitals and showed the student pornographic images and videos more than 100 times over four years.

The two students from Isaac Bear also allege Kelly exposed himself and showed them pornographic images and videos, and one student alleges Kelly sexually assaulted him in a student restroom.

In addition to the new victims, the amended complaint elaborates on what occurred with one of the original plaintiffs as well.

That student, who was at Isaac Bear from 2006 to 2010, alleges Kelly taught students how to get around content filters on their school-provided laptops in order to access pornography. At the end of the year, the complaint states, Kelly collected the laptops and “scrubbed” them of the content to conceal what happened.

In addition to the action of the 10 “named” plaintiffs, the suit brings class action allegations on behalf of all students enrolled at any school within New Hanover County Schools at any time between Aug. 1, 1993 and Feb. 7, 2018 who experienced sexual abuse by Kelly.

Attorneys argue the class consists of “dozens” of former students who are “fearful, reluctant and hesitate to participate as a named plaintiff” but have a common claim against Kelly and the school system.

The class action would seek a pool or “common fund” for the named plaintiffs as well as those who are too fearful to be named plaintiffs to receive compensation for their pain, suffering, mental anguish and lost earning capacity due to the lingering trauma of sexual abuse.

The case was designated as an exceptional case by the court in February due to the complexity of the suit.

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