Tears streaming down his face, former Leander High School football star Greg Kelley stood Thursday night just outside an ongoing Cedar Park City Council meeting.
In the glare of television lights, he spoke about how his father died before being able to see Kelley's 2013 conviction for sexual assault of a child overturned on Nov. 6 by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
The elder Kelley passed away 5 months ago.
"In his last moments before he died, he told me 'Go and be whoever you want to be Greg. This is all going to behind you man, you're going to be free.' I said, 'You know Dad? I will, I'll do it,'" Kelley said.
"It absolutely kills me they took the last remaining years of my dad's life from me ... I just thank God I was released to see him die. I thank God I was at his funeral. But they took vital moments I could have spent with my Dad."
In its ruling, the court argued no "reasonable juror" would have convicted him. Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick, who re-opened the investigation after taking office in 2017, called the investigation “wholly deficient" and argued he would have never prosecuted the case.
Kelley's attorneys argued the Cedar Park Police investigation was so shoddy, notably with the investigator's failure to interview other suspects or take photographs, that Kelley was essentially denied fair treatment by the judicial system.
While sharing his story with the media Thursday, Kelley called for the firing of Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix and Sgt. Chris Dailey, the lead investigator in his case who has been promoted to Sergeant since Kelley's conviction.
Kelley also criticized Mannix calling him a "disease" and his supporters "a cult" prior to his case being overturned.
In an interview with the Hill Country News afterwards, Kelley explained he wasn't simply calling for the firings "in order for me to feel justice ... there has to be accountability" for the department because "if it could happen to me, it could happen to somebody else." He said he doesn't want anyone else to suffer what he went through with his conviction.
"I don't believe they deserve to wear a badge. That's an honorable thing to do wear a badge," Kelley said. "Ultimately, (defending myself) is something I shouldn't have had to do. The new DA shouldn't have to get the Texas Rangers to do the job the Cedar Park Police Department should have done three years ago. They could have made this decision a long time ago."
Kelley attended Thursday's council meeting because the council posted an agenda item to update the council members on the case and give an opportunity for citizen comments.
Cedar Park Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale said he added the item to the agenda because he wanted the public to be able to speak about it as a specific item, not just in the general public comments at the start of the meeting.
"It's always important when you're the government, and that's what we are as council members, to give people the opportunity to be able address their government about whatever their view is," Van Arsdale said.
Kelley said after the meeting he was deeply grateful that his family and his supporters were given an opportunity to speak. But, he took issue when his mother Rosa, who had not signed up to speak, was interrupted by Van Arsdale.
Van Arsdale said "You have to register to talk" and gestured towards the registration room just outside of the Council Chamber.
Greg Kelley stood up and angrily shouted, "Can you let her speak? Can you please just do that?"
"She can go do that," Van Arsdale responded. "In open meetings, we have to (register). We'll take the time to let her register"
He immediately called a 5-minute recess to allow her to register to speak.
Later, questioned why he hadn't allow Kelley's mother to simply speak and fill-out a comment card afterwards like he had allowed others people in previous council meetings, Van Arsdale said the city's IT staff had implemented a new comments protocol.
In a follow-up interview, Van Arsdale clarified the city had been experiencing problems with some people, particularly individuals from outside of town, failing to fill out the required information on their public comment card to the point it complicated understanding who had submitted and keeping track to ensure everyone got to speak. He said the new electronic comment card requires all of the information fields to be filled out before someone can submit it.
He also said he had her submit electronically because he thought it would be much faster way to get her to be able to talk rather than having a long, technical conversation about what needed to be filled out on a paper card.
"I wasn't in any way trying to block her from talking," Van Arsdale said.
When the council returned from the recess, Rosa Kelly took her turn and struggled to address the council through tears, recounting her departed husband.
She said her husband, just before he died, asked her to make sure that when Kelley was exonerated of his charge, she would ensure "that people have to pay for their mistakes."
She accused Dailey of focusing on Kelley in the investigation because it would generate media attention and "he had Greg Kelley in his hands ... that would give him his next level (promotion)."
Mannix's only response to the incident so far was a statement released after Kelley's Nov. 6 ruling that exonerated him.
"I respect today’s ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeals granting Greg Kelley’s application for relief," he said. "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."
The next stage in Kelley's case will be a Nov. 21 exoneration hearing, which will deal with Kelley's case returning to Williamson County court. The district attorney has already stated he won't retry the case.
Kelley is hoping for the judge in his case to declare him officially innocent, which would allow him the legal right to pursue compensation from the state equal to $80,000 per year of incarceration.
Hill Country News will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.