Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Ex-official on trial in sex case

By Samuel Maull
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - A 21-year-old man testified Tuesday that he was drunk, sick and almost asleep when the former commissioner of Kentucky's Department of Juvenile Justice sexually molested him in a New York City hotel room last September.

The witness, a bartender from Lexington, Ky., testified at the trial of the former commissioner, Ralph E. Kelly, 65, who is charged with forcible touching and third-degree sex abuse. He faces up to a year behind bars if convicted. He is free without bail.

The witness, one of two 21-year-old men who accompanied Kelly to New York, said he had gotten sick in the bathroom of a Southgate Hotel suite, across from Madison Square Garden, in the early hours of Sept. 24 after a night of eating and drinking. The witness said he wept for about two hours after the alleged groping by Kelly.

"Were you drunk?" Assistant District Attorney Anne-Marie Whelan asked the witness.

"Yes, ma'am," he replied, adding that he has chronic digestive problems and, "I was very upset to my stomach."

Kelly, who had been in New York City on vacation and to attend the football game between the University of Louisville and Army at West Point, left the suite. The witness said he then called police.

Kelly's lawyer, Stephen Flamhaft, said nothing happened between his client and the alleged victim and he intends to have Kelly say that on the stand.

Kelly, who has worked in juvenile justice for 35 years and has a national reputation in the field, was forced to resign his $91,000-a-year position days after Kentucky Justice Secretary Ishmon Burks Jr. learned of the charges.

Kelly was recruited to head the Department of Juvenile Justice when it was created in 1996. The agency operates a network of juvenile boot camps, detention centers, treatment centers and group homes.

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