A former Durham County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges related to his relationship with an underage girl.
Christopher Kelly worked as a school resource officer at Hillside and Northern high schools, and acted as a mentor to a 14-year-old girl before their relationship turned sexual.
Kelly pleaded guilty to three felony charges: indecent liberties with a minor, indecent liberties with a student and second-degree kidnapping.
He could serve just over one year of prison time after Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway handed down two sentences for the three crimes.
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Kelly received a consolidated sentence of 13 to 25 months in prison for the indecent liberties charges, during which time he must attend a sexual-offender treatment program.
Of that time, Kelly's defense attorney, Daniel Meier, said his client is expected to serve 13 to 16 months of active incarceration with nine months of post-release probation.
For the kidnapping, Kelly was sentenced to 25 months to 90 months in prison suspended for 60 months of supervised probation. The second sentence begins after the first ends.
Because the second sentence was suspended, that means Kelly, after serving time for indecent liberties, will be released for five years (60 month) on supervised probation before serving his second sentence.
But, Meier said, Kelly might not have to serve any active prison time for the kidnapping if he does not violate his probation during the five-year suspension period of supervised probation.
“As a practical matter he won’t serve 13 months,” Meier said. “He will serve closer to 14 to 15 months.”
On April 12, 2017, Kelly was pulled over by fellow deputies for speeding.
According to warrants, the deputies saw someone get out of the white Chevrolet Impala. As the deputies approached, they saw a girl squatting near the front of the car.
The deputies searched for the girl, warrants said, but they didn’t see her until Kelly pulled away, with her sitting in the passenger seat, warrants said.
At the time, Kelly, who was was hired as deputy in August, 2013, got a verbal warning for speeding.
Kelly was later arrested June 26 after an investigation and originally charged with statutory sex offense with a child, first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, indecent liberties with a child, sex acts with a student and second-degree kidnapping.
He was placed on administrative leave April 21 and fired April 28.
Kelly had begun a mentoring relationship with a girl – who at the time of Kelly’s arrest was 15 years old – while working as an off-duty officer at Carrington Middle School during the 2014-15 school year.
When the girl moved from middle school to Northern High School for the 2015-2016 school year, Kelly began regularly working at Northern High School as an off-duty officer, warrants said.
He became involved in school activities and volunteered as an assistant coach for the cheerleading squad.
Kelly and the girl were spotted by witnesses as they engaged in physical displays of affection described as “not appearing to be sexual in nature, but also not ‘the norm,’” warrants said.
Detectives found explicit photos on Kelly’s cellphone of the girl during their investigation.