At a documentary screening a few years back, a friend pulled aside the director Pat Kondelis and told him about a story he should look into. This happens to Kondelis all the time, so he thought little of the tip, consumed as he was with publicity for Disgraced, his Emmy-award winning dive into the Baylor basketball murder-and-coverup scandal that aired on Showtime.
Eventually, Kondelis did look into the saga his friend had recommended. The one about Greg Kelley, the high school football star from Leander, Texas, a small city of roughly 50,000 north of Austin. Kelley was set to begin his senior season in 2013 when he was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 4-year-old boy, a crime for which he would eventually be sentenced to 25 years in state prison without parole. By the time Kondelis dove in, Kelley had a large group of fervent supporters, a devastated family, strong evidence his case had been mishandled by the Cedar Park Police Department and his own initial counsel, and something else that appealed to Kondelis—a story that spoke to universal themes like football in America and politics interfering in small-town justice with a case unlike any he’d ever come across. Since Kondelis is also based in Austin, he knew that officers in Williamson County, like those in Cedar Park, had long been accused of corruption.
Interest perked, Kondelis set up a meeting with Kelley’s family, since Kelley himself was already behind bars. Something like 20 people showed up to discuss Kelley, his career and his case—and the conversation lasted for almost four hours. In the days that followed, Kondelis couldn’t shake his fascination with the story. What had really happened? And that question drove what eventually became Outcry, a five-part docuseries that will premiere on Showtime on Sunday. July 5 at 10 p.m. ET.
Kondelis met with Kelley in prison to pitch him on the project. He told Kelley that he would take a non-biased approach, presenting challenging notions to him and his supporters, asking all questions, even controversial ones. Kelley might get uncomfortable, Kondelis told him, but he wanted to be transparent. Kelley agreed to open his life up anyway, even though he says he’s naturally shy. “I was willing to do anything,” he says. “I didn’t know what my fate was going to be, but I didn’t just want this documentary to be made. I needed it to be made.”
The director and his crew filmed Kelley, his family, his supporters, the police chief, the prosecutors, the defense lawyers, ex-coaches, classmates and victim’s advocates for more than three years. But whereas most sports documentaries focus on events that happened in the past—especially the romanticized long ago past—and stick to the age-old formula of replaying events that happened and assessing the significance they now hold, what separates Outcry is how Kondelis filmed in real time, with almost all the important players reacting to events as they unfolded, often finding out about those developments on camera. The doc unfolds as it did for the crew and its subjects, adding tension and sustaining suspense through five hours spread over five episodes. “Inevitably, when you’re just looking back, you’re not going to get as true a sense of what happened,” Kondelis says. “There’s going to be revisionist answers once everything is finished. Here, even key players didn’t know what was happening.”
Without giving too much of the documentary away, the crew filmed Kelley and his supporters discussing the case itself, how it allegedly took place at an in-home daycare where Kelley was staying for his senior year after his father had suffered a stroke and his mother had endured a brain tumor. They trace Kelley’s initial trial, in July 2014, his rejection of a lesser plea offer and how he steadfastly maintained his innocence. There are leading detective interviews, other suspects that weren’t initially considered, appeals trials, rallies, lie-detector tests and a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Kelley is filmed while in jail and while out on bond, starting in Aug. 2017; Kondelis estimates his crew recorded over 180 hours of footage in those three years. He’s filmed training to resume to the football career he lost to his incarceration. He’s filmed calling for an apology from and the firing of Cedar Park’s police chief, Sean Mannix (he retired in January), and Sgt. Chris Dailey, the main investigator in the case. He’s even filmed the moment he finds out whether he will be exonerated (no spoilers here). “I was in shock multiple times over the revelations,” Kondelis says. “I’ve never had less control over any story I’ve told before. This was us just sitting back, along for the ride.”
While Kelley awaited his fate, he decided he wanted to walk on to the football team at the University of Texas, and he began to train with former Longhorn running back Jeremy Hills and NFL luminary Kenny Vaccaro. He soon found he could hang with them.
“One thing I’ve realized through all these years,” Kelley says, “is there were times I wasn’t the strongest, times I was broken in prison, times I saw my family broken, times I was strong, times I had to embrace my reality. If I ever get the chance to play football, I want coaches to know I’m pretty damn good at suffering. I’m not looking to be a charity case. I just want to get back what was taken from me, what was stripped from me.”