GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Greg Kelley, the man convicted in 2014 and sentenced to prison on charges he sexually assaulted a 4-year-old boy, is innocent of the charges, Judge Donna King ruled Monday.
“The court finds that the cumulation of evidence supports applicant’s claim of actual innocence. He has met his burden and established he is actually innocent of the offense for which he was convicted,” King wrote, adding, “The court recommends the applicant’s claim of actual innocence be granted and that his conviction be set aside.”
The move comes as Kelley’s attorney and Williamson County prosecutors are working together to overturn the original conviction. Both believe Kelley had ineffective counsel during the 2014 trial, and say police botched the investigation. Judge King agreed in her ruling, even citing how a juror during Kelley’s trial called the District Attorney during his most recent evidentiary hearing this year, saying “the failure to present an alternative suspect or alternative scenario is what convicted him.” New evidence points to two other suspects who lived in that in-home day care where the crime happened.
King doesn’t have the final say in the case — her recommendation will be handed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which will make the final decision.
The Cedar Park Police Department has faced criticism for the way it handled Greg Kelley’s case. During Kelley’s August hearing, Judge King said Kelley was denied due process after a Texas Ranger took the stand, pointing to holes in the department’s investigation. On Tuesday, the Cedar Park City Council will meet in closed session to discuss the legal issues surrounding Greg Kelley’s case. The city says details of the conversation will remain confidential.
The city of Cedar Park released a statement regarding Judge King’s decision, in part saying:
The Cedar Park Police Department investigated the outcry of a child sexual assault victim with assistance of Children’s Advocacy Center and Child Protective Services. The resulting information was provided to and coordinated with the Williamson County’s District Attorney’s Office, which reviewed the case, made the decision to charge Mr. Kelley and presented the case to a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury determined there was sufficient evidence to indict and move forward with prosecution, in which he had legal counsel. After an extensive trial and a review of testimonies and other evidence, a jury unanimously returned a guilty verdict.
City Manager Brenda Eivens said, “The questions surrounding this case weigh heavily on all of us. Public safety is fundamental, and it requires the trust of our community to be most effective. The men and women of the Cedar Park Police Department are dedicated to serving and protecting our citizens with a high level of professionalism. That said, the City is taking a hard look at the criminal investigations processes and procedures and is willing to make difficult decisions as necessary.”
In October, the city hired Hillard Heintze, a firm that specializes in police accountability assessment. This firm is conducting an independent review of the Cedar Park Police Department’s investigative operations and established policies and procedures and will make recommendations for continued improvements. The city expects to have the results from the independent review this spring.
Before Judge King announced her recommendation Monday, Kelley hopped on a plane to Mexico with his girlfriend over the weekend. Kelley’s attorney Keith Hampton says his only bond condition is that he shows up to court, so he is allowed to leave the country, and he doesn’t have a court date coming up anytime soon. In fact it could take the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals months even up to a year to come to a decision.
But bail bonds companies can make up their own regulations for defendants. “In felonies, I require them not to travel within about a week of their court date because if they miss a flight, you miss court, you get failure to appear which is another charge,” explains Freddy Pierce, owner of Fast Freddy’s Bail Bonds in Georgetown.
Pierce says there is always a fear more people won’t come back when they take out-of-town trips, especially when they leave the country. “That’s money we’re putting up with the county and if we can’t get them back, we lose that money,” said Pierce.
Hampton tells KXAN few people going through state court actually have travel restrictions — only high-risk offenders, for example someone with a lot of money who’s likely to run. Either way, bonds backers are keeping tabs on defendants.
“Sometimes they require the person to physically come to the building, their office and check in on Mondays,” explains Pierce. “Some check in by text message, some check in using an app that checks their geo location and sends it back to us.”
If someone on bond does take off, bail bonds companies have to bring them back or hire a bounty hunter to do the job. In Williamson County, they have six months to bring back someone facing a misdemeanor charge, and nine months to bring back someone charged with a felony.
On Tuesday morning, Kelley and his girlfriend posted a video from Cabo thanking Judge King for her decision.