Ex-Champaign school dean denies abuse

Ex-Champaign school dean denies abuse

URBANA – Brady Smith, in brief testimony Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Urbana, denied sexually abusing a former middle school student.

Smith, a former dean at Franklin Middle School, and the Champaign school district are being sued by the former student, Brandon Kelly, and Kelly's mother, Dorothy Kelly Ward. Closing arguments were scheduled for this morning, with a jury of five men and three women then scheduled to begin deliberations.

The lawsuit, filed in 2001 by attorneys Ellyn Bullock and Mary Lee Leahy, claims that Kelly was among a series of students, all black males, who were sexually groomed and abused by Smith. The suit also claims that Kelly's rights were violated by sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

Chicago attorney Thomas DiCianni, representing the Champaign school district, asked Smith two questions Wednesday.

To the first, "Mr. Smith, at any time, did you participate in or commit any sexual act with Brandon Kelly?" Smith replied, "No, I did not."

Asked whether he truthfully denied Kelly's allegations when asked about them Oct. 31, 1996, by district administrators Michael Cain and Joe Tomlinson, Smith said, "Yes, I did."

Smith, who is representing himself, rested his case without otherwise taking the stand. He was not cross-examined.

Smith is serving a prison sentence of four years for indecent solicitation of a child to perform a sex act. He was originally sentenced in 2001 to probation, but resentenced last year when his probation was revoked for possession of a box of ammunition.

Brandon Kelly is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for possession of a controlled substance.

Several school officials testified in the trial, generally saying that Kelly was often disciplined for disruptive behavior in class. They also testified that Smith was generous but professional with students.

Thomas Roessler, a child psychologist who has treated and researched victims of sexual abuse, testified last week that he concluded more than two years ago, after a review of records and interviews of Brandon Kelly and Dorothy Kelly Ward, that Kelly's behavior indicated he had been sexually abused. Roessler also concluded that the young man had post-traumatic stress disorder.

Trudy Good, a clinical psychologist at Provena Behavioral Health, testified Wednesday that she evaluated Kelly under a court order in July 1998 and recommended that he be given structure for his behavior and immediate consequences for breaking any rules. She did not find any evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder, Good said.

Former Urbana police Sgt. Jim Wuersch testified that in October 1996, his department investigated Kelly's claim that the abuse occurred in Smith's former home in Urbana and concluded there was not probable cause to make an arrest. Testimony also was given that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services also investigated Kelly's allegations and concluded that the claim was unfounded.

Kelly, now 21, testified in the trial that he had been sexually abused by Smith three times in 1996, when he was 15 years old:

– After Smith picked him up to go out for breakfast and then returned to Smith's house, where Smith said the youth needed "therapy," which resulted in a sex act, according to Kelly.

– After a juvenile court hearing when, according to Kelly's testimony, Smith told the teen that he would "have to have more therapy to stay out of prison."

– After Kelly asked to borrow Smith's Chevy Blazer, which he later wrecked in an alley, resulting in an investigation by Champaign police that led to Kelly telling police only about the first alleged abuse.

Two other former students and one current student, all black males, also testified in the trial that Smith had sexually abused or attempted to sexually abuse them. They also told how Smith bought them gifts, gave them cash and rides.

You can reach Steve Bauer at (217) 351-5318 or via e-mail at sbauer@news-gazette.com.

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