AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday overturned Greg Kelley’s conviction for aggravated sexual assault against a child. Kelley, of Leander, was originally convicted in 2014 and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
This comes two years after Williamson County Judge Donna King ruled Kelley was innocent of the charges and set him free on bond pending appeal.
Wednesday’s ruling in Kelley’s favor likely means he will not return to prison. It would be up to Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick to try Kelley a second time, but it was Dick who ordered a review of the Kelley case.
That came in the spring of 2017 when Kelley’s defense team was able to successfully argue there was another suspect who could have been responsible for the crime. Dick agreed, finding it was “credible evidence.”
Kelly spent more than three years behind bars, then was released on bond in 2017 when King declared him innocent and referred his case to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
In a statement, Cedar Park PD Chief Sean Mannix said: “I respect today’s ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeals granting Greg Kelley’s application for relief. As Justice Newell’s concurring opinion indicates, this relief was based on new evidence post-conviction, and not on the grounds of deprivation of due process or ineffective assistance of counsel.
“Make no mistake, I have heard the criticisms surrounding this case and taken actions to address them. I want to reassure our citizens that the department remains steadfast in our commitment to ensure community safety and public trust. It’s a responsibility and privilege I take very seriously.
“I recognize this case has been difficult for all involved and has impacted multiple families and our community. Our department will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners and the District Attorney’s Office in keeping our community safe.”
In a briefing on Wednesday, Kelley’s attorney Keith Hampton said: “His life will be restored, beginning today.”
Hampton said the next move for Kelley and his team would be to hold a public hearing where Kelley would be publicly and specifically be exonerated.
Kelley’s attorney said after this, he would pursue the compensation due to Kelley under the Wrongful Incarceration Act. According to Hampton, compensation would include free tuition to any Texas college, payment of about $80,000 a year and a “small” annuity. Hampton said the full compensation would be about a $250,000.
In an interview with KXAN’s Tom Miller on Wednesday, Kelley said that on Wednesday morning, he went to check the website he has checked every Wednesday for two years to see if his name was listed under “Relief Granted,” which means he’d be exonerated.
Kelley said that this Wednesday morning was different.
“My name was there and it said relief granted and I broke down, I broke down pretty bad. It just felt like a big weight got lifted off my shoulders. I’m finally free.”
Kelley said he celebrated with his family even though he’s in New York.
In the interview, Kelley explained how it’s been out in the world since he was released from Williamson County Jail in August 2017. He says that while he was released on bond, that he wasn’t walking with his case overturned. Kelley explains the that while he may have appeared to be free, it was quite the opposite.
“I really wasn’t. There were still chains hanging off of me. I was still convicted. These past two years have been a struggle…It’s been hard for me to hold a job, pass a background check. It’s been hard to just even live everyday life with the fear of being torn away from my family. Well, I don’t have that fear anymore.”
Kelley says his next moves are getting back to playing football — he says he has opportunities to play with other teams — and marrying “the love of his life” Gaebri Anderson.
He says that over the past few years, the idea that he could be torn away and separated from her has been hard.
“We’ve been planning a wedding. It’s been stressful planning for a very big wedding but now that I know I’m free, we can go in there with full hearts.”
Looking ahead to his future, Kelley says he doesn’t have anger at those who did him wrong in the case.