TYLER, Texas An auto body shop worker was convicted and swiftly sentenced to life in prison Thursday for grooming children as young as 5 to perform in sex shows at a small-town swingers club.
Patrick "Booger Red" Kelly showed no emotion after the verdict. Jurors deliberated about two hours before finding him guilty of engaging in organized criminal activity. They took just 15 minutes to sentence him to prison for life. Defense attorneys had sought a suspended sentence of less than 10 years so Kelly could be placed on probation.
Prosecutors said Kelly was a member of the so-called Mineola Swinger's Club, though Kelly has maintained his innocence. They contended Kelly helped set up a "kindergarten" where children learned to dance provocatively. To help perform at the club, prosecutors say the children were given Vicodin-like drugs the adults passed off as "silly pills."
"As we stand here, I still absolutely believe that my client is innocent," Kelly's defense attorney, Thad Davidson, said outside the courtroom after the trial.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Joe Murphy accused Kelly of having sexual contact with five children tied to the case who, he said, showed signs of sexual abuse.
Davidson questioned why the children didn't remember details about the club and why they weren't examined by medical personnel trained to detect sexual abuse.
Davidson contended the lead investigator had little experience handling sex crimes, said he didn't conduct a thorough investigation and accused him of being improperly influenced by the foster mother of three of the children, Margie Cantrell, who brought the original complaint.
"So you got these incredible suggestive, tainted ... interviews. And who takes over the interviews? The woman who has custody of the three children," Davidson said.
Kelly, 41, testified during the trial that he has no knowledge of "silly pills" and never made children do any kind of sexual dancing or touched them inappropriately. He said he has never even been to the Mineola Swinger's Club.
Other witnesses called by Kelly's attorneys have said that while swinger parties took place in the building, children were never present.