Rev. Joseph Kelleher had the child sex abuse charges against him dismissed by a North Carolina judge on Tuesday — because the judge maintained that Kelleher didn’t have the mental capacity to stand trial.
Kelleher was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1977. After the victim came forward in 2010, Kelleher was arrested, and charged with one count of taking indecent liberties with a child. His attorney said that he pleaded not guilty. He was part of the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte for decades, and was working as a pastor at the time of the incident.
Superior Court Judge Anna Mills Wagoner dismissed the charges against the priest based on court-ordered evaluations; Kelleher is 86 years-old and currently resides in a retirement home. Reportedly, Kelleher suffers from dementia and a number of physical ailments, which include heart disease.
A number of Charlotte area Catholics still defend “Father Joe,” according to the Lake Wylie Pilot:
Many Charlotte Catholics have stood by Kelleher, saying they don’t believe he’s guilty. But after his arrest in the Albemarle case, the Diocese of Charlotte put him on administrative leave, which meant he was not permitted, for the first time since his 1953 ordination, to publicly celebrate Mass or wear priestly garb in public. He is still suspended from public ministry.
The Diocese spokesperson David Hains had no comment on Tuesday.
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