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Why would a father go to bat for a convicted child molester that he didn’t even know? Well, for Jake Brydon, it was a calling.
Brydon became a very vocal supporter of football star Greg Kelley following Kelley’s 2014 conviction for sexually abusing a young boy, which is documented in Showtime's new docuseries "Outcry." He became a member of The Greg Kelley Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 2014 to seek justice for Kelley, and began leading rallies and protests. He spent much of his free time trying to get Kelley’s conviction overturned and even hired a post-conviction lawyer for Kelley after feeling like Kelley's first attorney failed.
While he didn’t know Kelley personally before this, there was a personal connection. Brydon told Oxygen.com that Kelley was dating one of his former coach’s daughters, Gaebri Anderson (now Gaebri Kelley). It was 2014 when the Texas dad first heard about Kelley, who was a star football player at Leander High School.
“I saw my old coach on the news,” he said. “I know him to be a man of great character and he was always our leadership teacher in high school and taught a leadership class and I was like, why is he onscreen crying for a convicted pedophile?”
He reached out to his former coach, who was adamant that Kelley was innocent. Brydon argued that sometimes good-seeming people do bad things, and as a father he was more inclined to want to protect the young boy. Brydon told Oxygen.com that at this point in his life he thought “bad guys go to jail and the good guys don’t.”
But he soon began researching the case and realized that something was off. Brydon told Oxygen.com that he helped hire a private investigator to connect the dots and soon realized that a “perfect storm” of injustice had occurred. Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick echoed that sentiment and told Oxygen.com that the case “was the perfect storm of all aspects of the criminal justice system failing."
Dick, who wasn’t district attorney at the time of Kelley’s conviction, blamed police, Kelley’s original attorney, the original prosecution, and jurors for what a court later decided was a wrongful conviction. He told Oxygen.com that the police did a "truly deficient" job of investigating the allegations as they neglected to look into other suspects, including Kelley's lookalike friend Jonathan McCarty whose mother ran the daycare where the alleged abuse took place. Police were also criticized for feeding leading questions to the child victim.
In addition, Kelley's initial defense attorney "had a conflict of interest," according to Dick, because she was close friends with the McCarty family. Furthermore, Dick said that the prosecution also neglected to look at other suspects or theories; he contended that once they had Kelley in their sights, they put "blinders on." McCarty has since been arrested on other sex crime allegations.
Kelley was released on bond in 2017, the same year Dick publicly called the case a disaster, after the case was reopened and a court vacated his conviction last year, partially thanks to Brydon's help.
Brydon, who runs a construction business, had no experience in advocacy before. However, he told Oxygen.com that he felt “a calling” to become an advocate for Kelley. He also said he underestimated how long it would take to try to get justice and admitted that sometimes he wanted to quit. However, he knew he couldn’t.
“That’s just the way I live my life,” he said. “I don’t do anything halfway. If I start something, I’m going to finish it.”
He said that through the process his perception of justice in America changed. He cited Bob Dylan's protest song “Hurricane,” which was written about the wrongful conviction of two Black men — including boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter — for the shooting of three white people, according to Pitchfork. One of the lyrics states that America is “a land where justice is just a game.”
“You hear that song [...] and you realize that this is just a game to these people,” Brydon said of those who initially prosecuted Kelley. “They are playing with people’s lives but there are no real ramifications for them when they get it wrong.”
Brydon and Kelley remain close. He even officiated his January 2019 wedding to Gaebri. He has since given Kelley some office space on his property for Kelley's new endeavor — a company called Tomahawk Targets, which makes custom axe throwing boards and corn hole sets.
Brydon told Oxygen.com that he and Kelley, the man he once almost dismissed as a criminal, still communicate every day.
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