My father, Daryl Kelly Sr., has been in prison since 1998 for a crime he never committed - based on a lie I told. When I was just 8 years old, my drug addicted mother forced me to make an accusation of sexual abuse against him. But the truth is that my father had never laid a finger on me. Even my mother has admitted she forced me to lie about this during one of her drug binges. But my father is still in prison, 15 years after being wrongfully convicted.
I have been trying for years now to be heard. Now that I have matured into a mother, this fight is even more important to me. I have written Governor Cuomo and spoken to members of a committee of district attorneys who were reviewing my case - but they won't listen to me. All they did was try to put it in my head that my father did do this and I am suppressing it.
It all happened in October of 1997, when my family was living in Newburgh, N.Y. My dad, a Navy veteran, owned a local electronics repair shop. But my mother was so seriously addicted to drugs that she had got involved in prostitution to feed her addiction. One day, out of the blue, she repeatedly asked me if my father had ever touched me. Over and over I told her no, until she became so furious she threatened to beat me with a belt unless I told her what she wanted to hear. To avoid being beaten, I answered "yes", even though it wasn't true.
After my mother went to police he was arrested and charged with multiple counts of rape and sodomy despite no physical evidence. He maintained his innocence and refused a plea deal that would have made him eligible for parole in six years, and within a year he faced a jury. Based on my testimony (I was coached by the prosecution and taught words like "penis" and "vagina"), it took the jury only hours to find him guilty, and he was sentenced to 20 to 40 years.
Last year the head of the Conviction Review Bureau at the N.Y. Attorney General's office called for my father's case to be reviewed. But the district attorney who prosecuted him won't listen and upheld his conviction. He says my testimony is not credible and that “the system says he’s not innocent." I then spoke with a committee of district attorneys who were reviewing my dad's case and they wouldn't listen to what I had to say - they just kept telling me I must be repressing the abuse.
My dad needs to be freed and this wrong must be righted. I will not stop until it is. So far, all of his appeals have been denied - the courts need to listen or Governor Cuomo should grant my father clemency.
When I turned 15, I saw my father in prison. The first thing he did was hug me and he tell me that he loved me and … that he doesn’t blame me for anything. That meant the world to me and now I need your help to set him free.