Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tom Kelly sentenced to 36 years in prison

Astoria man sent to prison for 36 years

The Daily Astorian
Posted: Monday, July 28, 2008 12:00 am

His gray beard was cut short and his hair slicked back when 57-year-old Thomas Michael Kelly of Astoria entered a Clatsop County Courtroom Monday morning.

He wore a bright yellow jumpsuit with CLATSOP COUNTY INMATE stenciled across the back. Shackles on his arms and legs forced him to shuffle as he entered Courtroom 100.

Flanked by two brown-uniformed Clatsop County deputies at all times, he stood quietly as Circuit Court Judge Cindee Matyas listed the penalties she would impose for the crimes of which he was convicted.

Six imposing-looking deputies lined the low wall that separated the gallery from the well of the court. Sheriff Tom Bergin and five others were spread throughout the gallery.

Matyas sentenced Kelly to four consecutive 100-month sentences - more than 33 years in prison.

"There was overwhelming evidence - there truly was," Matyas said. "In the face of overwhelming evidence, you deny responsibility. There is some mindset - when you justify some sort of sexual interaction with children - that's disturbing."

A 12-person jury found Kelly guilty of 12 counts each of first-degree sodomy and first-degree sex abuse for ongoing abuse of a girl between July 2004 and May 2006. The girl is now age 10.

Ron Brown, Clatsop County's chief deputy district attorney, sought eight consecutive 100-month terms.
Threatening lettersDozens of close friends and family members of Kelly's crowded the courtroom during both his trial and the sentencing. They contacted numerous media outlets, crying injustice.

And one sent threatening letters to Brown, Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, Kelly's Portland attorney Susan Reese, and other people involved in the trial.

"The man who sent you hate mail is out there, would you like an escort?" asked a county deputy as Reese prepared to leave the courtroom.

Reese declined the offer.

As she departed, she told a reporter, "I would like to say that he's profoundly sorry," adding that she believed the sentence was disproportionate to similar cases in other parts of the state.

Strict security

And, by many accounts, there were numerous unusual events in this sentencing.

Bryant Baehr, the trial court administrator, said the Sheriff's Office only asks the court to use metal detector wands to check people entering the courtrooms four to five times per year, and they did for this hearing.

The victim and her family were brought into the courtroom before other gallery attendees and the press.

Then Kelly was led in.

Kelly's wife, Lilly, was one of the first of his supporters allowed into the courtroom. She gazed around the room.

She looked to the corner where the victim's father sat, with tears in his eyes and fists on his lap.

Kelly's family and supporters shot frequent, elongated glances at the the victim and her parents, who sat at the wall in the back corner of the gallery, across the court from the judge.

"The whole trial, in my opinion, was a 25-cent Vaudeville act," said Richard Kelly, Kelly's father. He rocked back and forth in his seat as Matyas announced his son's sentences, staring for nearly 10 minutes at the family of the victim.

Kelly's family spoke to the court with emotional voices. Some declaimed Kelly's conviction, while others spoke of his innocence.

"I just want to say that you'll never find a better son. Never," said his mother, Gloria Kelly.

Supporting his body against the rail of the courtroom, the victim's father spoke tearfully to the defendant in a courtroom filled with dozens of Kelly's supporters.

"My family is ruined," he said. "We're never going to get over 

Kelly did not divert his eyes from the victim's father while he spoke. When the 10-year-old victim stood to address the court, Kelly leaned back in his chair. "I feel bad for him, but I can never forgive him either," the youngster said.

When he spoke the court, Kelly did not express any regret for the crimes he was convicted of, but told the victim and her father that he loves them. Kelly made a joke, and before he sat down, burst into song with his wife and daughter.

"To know, know you is to love, love, love you. Just to see you smile..." Kelly sang, breaking off the Phil Spector song in mid-sentence.

"... it makes my life worthwhile," his wife, Lilly, and daughter, Aime, continued.

Many of Kelly's supporters still believe in his innocence, and think that his sentencing is not the end of the road.

"The bottom line is we will pursue an appeals process and we believe in my brother's innocence," said Kelly's sister, Kathy Zimmerman, of Portland.

During the sentencing, Judge Matyas said the evidence against Kelly was overwhelming.

"I can't say that the jury's finding was disproportionate to the evidence," she said.

After Kelly was removed, the victim and her family left the courtroom first, escorted by Clatsop County deputies. Kelly's family and supporters shuffled out of the court room, lingering in the parking lot.

At 10:30 a.m., a Clatsop County deputy asked the group to leave the courthouse parking lot, saying they were intimidating.

Brown said he was proud to be a part of the prosecution and praised the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office after the hearing. He said the investigators did a good job of seizing a chair which had Kelly's DNA on it, which was a key piece of evidence.

"It's nice to tell the victim (the conviction) doesn't all ride on them," Brown said. "He got what he deserved.

"I do feel sorry for his family. In big, significant cases, people refuse to look at the evidence objectively."