WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas - A Williamson County judge is recommending that Greg Kelley be found innocent.
The former Leander High School football star was convicted of two counts of super aggravated sexual assault of a child back in 2014.
Kelley was among three suspects possibly responsible for performing lewd acts with children at the McCarty in-home daycare. The other two suspects, according to court documents, were McCarty family members.
Greg Kelley spent three years in prison after his 2014 child sexual assault conviction. Since then, he has been fighting to prove his innocence. The findings by the judge means he is one step closer.
"The judge's findings and conclusions here are so strong, I don't see how the Court of Criminal Appeals is going to disagree with these," says Keith Hampton, Greg Kelley's attorney.
The findings filed Monday by Judge Donna King says: "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 for which he was convicted."
The court also found that the Cedar Park Police Department was deficient in their investigation, stating that the detective did not attempt to gather corroborating information that the assailant identified as "Greg" was in fact Greg Kelley. Furthermore, there was never an in-court identification of Kelley as being the assailant. District Attorney Shawn Dick says they have been working with the department and others to make sure this doesn't happen again in Williamson County.
"We have officers talking to our office on a daily basis to discuss whether or not there is more information needed on a case, what other kind of evidence they could produce to make a case stronger or better," says District Attorney Shawn Dick, Williamson County.
In reference to Kelley's initial attorney, Patricia Cummings, the court cites ineffective assistance of counsel and conflict of interest. For one, Cummings represented family members of the McCarty family, including the third suspect who remains unnamed.
"There were some charges involving, charges of a sexual nature involving the third suspect. Which the argument would be, that makes it even more likely to look at as an alternate suspect especially in a defensive strategy in a trial," says Dick.
Johnathan McCarty is the son of the daycare owner and later identified as a suspect by a Texas Ranger. At this point, Dick says evidence does not support taking these other two suspects to trial. The recommendation is that Kelley's claim of actual innocence be granted and his conviction is overturned. The ultimate decision is in the hands of the Court of Criminal Appeals.
The City of Cedar Park has issued a statement to FOX 7:
We understand that Judge King has made her recommendation in the Greg Kelley case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which will now review all information and evidence in making a final decision about Mr. Kelley's application for a writ of habeas corpus.
The City recognizes this remains a difficult situation for everyone involved. We are also sensitive to the fact that this is still an ongoing legal proceeding and open criminal investigation, and we will continue to honor the integrity of that process.
At the heart of this case is a young child sexual assault victim and his family. As the case moves through the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, it is our hope that this young boy and his family find peace with that Court's final determination.
It is important to keep in mind the process associated with this case. 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 the 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 nationally renowned 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.
Regarding the outcome of the review, Police Chief Sean Mannix said, "The Cedar Park Police Department embraces the opportunity for continuous improvement to advance the department's performance in terms of our operations and our accountability to the citizens we serve."