Civil Lawsuits Help Survivors of Child Sex Abuse Get Justice
Taking on a sexual predator is no easy task. Oftentimes, an adult who was sexually abused as a child is unable to talk about the abuse, much less take legal action. This tends to occur because the perpetrator is a family friend or someone in a position of power, such as a teacher, priest, etc.
The following YouTube video shows an interview of one of our lawyer’s clients, Greg Kelly, a remarkable individual who sued his perpetrator, a sitting state court judge, and won. Ultimately, the judge was removed from the bench and disbarred. Greg is interviewed with firm partner, Brian Kent, who was one of the only lawyers with the courage to represent Greg, after so many lawyers outright refused to take the case. The video clip shows their interview at the 2014 National Crime Victims Bar Association Conference with executive director, Jeff Dion.
Greg was able to proceed with his case due to a special law passed in Delaware several years ago. The law opened a special window for people like Greg to file civil lawsuits. Without this special window, it is very likely that his perpetrator would still be on the bench.
Transcript of Greg and Brian’s Interview
Jeff: One of the things we know about child sexual abuse is that it involves a huge disparity in power between the victim and the perpetrator. Perpetrators use their positions of power and authority to gain the trust of children, to be able to sexually abuse children and that differential in power continues into adulthood and is what keeps a lot of victims from reporting or disclosing the abuse. “Who’s going to believe me because the person that I’m going up against is very powerful?” We see that in cases against the church, but that power differential doesn’t just exist there. Now we’re going to have a conversation and I’m going to introduce two very brave and courageous individuals who fought for what was right, and we’re going to talk to a survivor who used the civil window in Delaware to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator decades after the abuse took place. What made the case interesting was that the perpetrator was an active sitting Delaware judge. And now I want to welcome Greg Kelly and Brian Kent to join me on the stage.
Greg: I grew up in a very or relatively privileged family and lifestyle in West Chester County, New York. Two college educated parents. My father was a young president of a Fortune 500 company. We had all the trappings of life that any kid could ask for: 4 boys, country club memberships. Everything looked pretty much perfect from the outside. But there was a secret that the rest of the world didn’t now about.
Jeff: The picture we have up on the screen is a picture of you in your football uniform. That’s what you looked like, that was taken about a month before you were abused.
Greg: Yes, that’s a picture of me taken in the 6th grade. There, I was the captain of my football team, St. Patrick’s Panthers. I would say at that point in time, I couldn’t imagine life being any better. That was about to change.
Jeff: Now your perp, William Bradley. How did you know him?
Greg: Bill Bradley was actually a longstanding friend of the family, dating all the way back to my father’s days in high school. Bill was a couple years older than my father. He was in my uncle Eddie’s class. And, he was somebody that for whatever reason, didn’t have the same bond with his own family that he did with my father’s family. He spent a lot of time hanging around with my father and his family. That trend continued into college where he also knew my mother. This was even before my parents were even married. Then that relationship just continued on past the point where my parents got married and had kids. Bill was somebody that would come over to the house on a regular basis, dating all the way back to the point when we were babies. So he was a close to being a blood relative as you could get without actually being a blood relative.
Jeff: So it wasn’t unusual when he invited you and your brother to come visit him at his home in Delaware one winter break one year.
Greg: Yeah, that was about a month after that picture that was just shown up was taken.
Bill kind of had this reputation as being a man’s man, with the female dating part excluded. He was a hunter. He liked to buy fast cars. He was an enormous man. He was over 300 pounds, about 6.5. He did at one point in time, he played basketball for the University of Notre Dame before he developed knee problems. But he was the kind of guy that you would look up to and say “you know, I want to be just like that guy.” He always treated us, even though we were children, he treated us like young adults. He would talk about subjects that were taboo. We just thought he was a cool guy to hang around. So when he asked my parents for my brother and I to come down there, they thought nothing of it because they thought “oh they are going to go down there and shoot bow and arrows and do manly things and smoke cigars.” You know, I’m in 6th grade. So there was no cause for alarm in their mind.
Jeff: But he abused you on that trip and you were very different when you came home from that trip, right?
Greg: Yes, so what happened was, this was, and this is a really critical fact that I made note of at that time. The reason I was able to succeed in my civil suit against Judge Bradley is I remembered the exact date. It was the date of the catch with Drew Pearson and the Cowboys when they were playing the Minnesota Vikings. We went straight from Bill’s, from our house in West Chester down to his place in Wilmington, Delaware, which was just this like big old ugly converted barn in the middle of a swamp somewhere. I’m surprised the place had running water. But so we were talking about that particular play the whole way down. And I had a really good feeling, “this is going to be so much fun, male bonding. You know, got my brother here, so if anything weird was going to happen, that’s not going to happen.”
So we get down there and we go upstairs, the three of us. There’s just this bare you know uncovered mattress on the floor, an oversized mattress because obviously he’s a big guy. And I’m thinking “well, what’s this for.” Apparently, it was for the 3 of us to all sleep there all together. So, not thinking that there was anything that was actually going to happen, I laid down. Bill laid down in the middle of the mattress and my brother laid down on the other side. The minute that happened, within 30 seconds, Bill had rolled over on his side. Now, you got to picture this. I’m about 70 pounds soaking wet at this point. Bill was 350, easily. He was probably this wide from side to side. All he had to do was roll over on his side. He was so massive, my brother could not see what was going on through him. Even though I’m very clear my brother knew what was going on. So the, at first, when he first touched me, he didn’t sodomize me. He just fondled me. But when he first attempted to do that, I was like almost in shock, but still like “what are you doing?” like thought maybe he was just kidding, he was just goosing me. Something like that. And what he did from there was he put me a body lock and essentially squeezed me to the point where I went limp. I mean I just had to give up. He made it very clear his hand was going to stay in my pants for the rest of the night and I pretty much shouldn’t try to fight it.
Jeff: How were you impacted by the abuse, what were your reactions afterwards?
Greg: Ok, so we get home, my mother could tell something was wrong right way. You know because this didn’t just happen one night. This happened 2 out of 3 nights to me. In fact the second night, he actually arranged for my brother not to be there so that he could do this without any witnesses. She could tell something was wrong. What Bill did was, he concocted some story, which actually did happen. At one point in time, he took us to go see possums getting skinned. He tried to convince my mother “Oh well, he had an anxiety attack from seeing dead possums,” or something. That was complete nonsense. I had been around deer hunting you know all my life to that point. Hunting did not bother me at all. Blood did not bother me at all. She bought that, but you know she could tell something was wrong.
So at this point, I’m in 6th grade. I go from being the captain of my football team to literally within a matter of weeks going into a shell, to the point where my parents could tell something was severely wrong. They started taking me on a weekly basis to a see a very prominent psychologist. I’m not going to mention his name because I don’t think it’s appropriate. He’s someone who is world known, to this day. And that went on for 2 years. Absolutely nothing good came of it. Because I wasn’t willing to say what happened to me because it was so incredible. It was such a breach of trust and faith that I wasn’t even sure if I hadn’t dreamt it. I mean obviously I knew it had happened, but I said “there’s gotta be some explanation for this.” I can’t imagine how I would ever explain this happening to me from somebody who’s supposed to be a very good friend of the family.
And so my development, my physical, mental and emotional development, had become so disrupted in the 3 year period after this happened, that I basically, my parents actually considered keeping me back, holding me back a year from school. That wound up not happening, I did go on to high school. I’ll get around to telling you how that affected me, in that regard, the next choice of actions I decided to take to deal with the impact of this.
Jeff: And so when did you first disclose the abuse to another person?
Greg: I believe it was when I was 20 years old. I was getting a ride home from my mom from the train station, from college. I actually went on to go to a Jesuit college, and still at that point was very religious. In fact, my freshman year, I was actually considering becoming a priest because I believed I was so damaged at that point that having a normal relationship with somebody was not going to be an option. And so there was some incident at the time that had gone in New York, involving child sex abuse, and I mentioned to my mom, like almost nonchalantly, that “Oh, yeah, Bill Bradley did that to me.” And she was so shocked by it that she almost drove off the road. Now, nothing came of that. I think to this day, this is one of the things that still bothers me about people that know about sex abuse and don’t take action. Neither of my parents did a thing. Alright, now I understand it was a different time then, that this kind of thing was considered unsavory, but also not uncommon. But they never did anything. They never picked up the phone and said “how dare you do this to our son.” And it wasn’t until years later, when clearly he had gotten the hint that my family wasn’t talking to him anymore, that he picked up the phone and asked my father “why.” My father told him. Of course, he denied it and came up with the possum skinning story again. And my father said, “look, this did happen because Gregory would have absolutely no reason to make this up. Period, end of story. Take that to your grave.” And my father died before my case with Judge Bradley was ever resolved. So he didn’t get the satisfaction of seeing the outcome.
Jeff: So what was your motivation in filing a civil suit, what were you trying to achieve?
Greg: Ok so, basically I had, as a part of my therapy for dealing with this, I decided to write a novel where there was a fictitious accounting of what happened to me in the novel. This was in 2009, shortly after my father died. As I was editing that particular sequence in the novel, I said to myself, “gee, I wonder what ever happened to this guy?” Because you know, I had reported him to the State Police and the judicial counsel for Delaware about ten years earlier. And nothing came of it because the statute of limitations had run out and he wasn’t a judge at the time. So the judicial counsel couldn’t do anything against him, and the attorney general, they can’t do anything, you know or the State Police can’t do anything if there’s, there’s no criminal remedy available. Exactly. So anyway, so I was having bad dreams and they involved somebody molesting me, that I didn’t want anyone near me. So I finally decided, “I have to do something about this, if not for myself.” So I ran across the law, that they had passed this civil window for me, for people, to file civil lawsuits and I said, “that’s it, I’m just going to go for it.”