OUISVILLE, Ky. — May 18, 2017, 1:46 PM ET
By dylan lovan, associated press
A Catholic priest has reached a plea agreement on sexual abuse charges that occurred at a summer camp that he ran for decades in Kentucky.
R. Joseph Hemmerle was facing allegations of abuse from a second person who said Hemmerle abused him at Camp Tall Trees in Meade County. Hemmerle was also convicted in November of abusing a boy who attended the camp in the 1970s and sentenced in February to seven years imprisonment.
Prosecutors say Hemmerle’s plea deal for sexual abuse and wanton endangerment calls for an additional two years imprisonment and eight years of probation. The deal was reached Wednesday.
Michael Norris, the victim in the first case, said he was “happy” to hear of the plea deal and that he wouldn’t have to testify in another trial. The second accuser, a man who attended the camp in the late 1970s, was not identified.
Norris told a jury in November that when he was 10 years old, Hemmerle stood him on a stool with no clothes and sexually abused him in the priest’s personal cabin. Norris testified he went to him for poison ivy treatment.
Hemmerle, 74, also testified at that trial, saying that he would sometimes apply calamine lotion to the genitals of child campers, with their permission, but he denied abusing anyone.
Norris said the plea agreement in the second case helps brings closure but said he wants an apology from church officials. He said he came forward with the first case against Hemmerle because he wanted to protect children who the priest might come in contact with.
“Maybe all those people who say they’re praying for Hemmerle will back off now,” he said after learning of the plea agreement. “Why don’t they pray for me?”
Hemmerle entered an Alford plea Wednesday, which means he didn’t admit guilt, but acknowledged that prosecutors could win a conviction in court.
Hemmerle led the summer camp, about an hour from Louisville, from 1970 to 2001 and also taught at Louisville Trinity High School from 1967 to 2001.
He has been on administrative leave since 2014. An Archdiocese of Louisville spokeswoman said she could not comment until she received information on the plea agreement.
Kentucky Catholic priest reaches plea deal on sex abuse
By Associated Press |
Posted: Thu 10:55 PM, May 18, 2017
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – A Catholic priest has reached a plea agreement on sexual abuse charges that occurred at a summer camp in Kentucky that he ran for decades.
R. Joseph Hemmerle was facing allegations of abuse from a second person who said Hemmerle abused him at Camp Tall Trees in Meade County. Hemmerle was also convicted in November of abusing a boy who attended the camp in the 1970s.
Prosecutors say Hemmerle’s plea deal for sexual abuse and wanton endangerment includes a 10-year sentence, with two years of the sentence to be served and the rest to be spent on probation. Hemmerle entered an Alford plea Wednesday, which means he didn’t admit guilt, but acknowledged that prosecutors could win a conviction in court.
Hemmerle has been on administrative leave since 2014.
Catholic priest, ex-Trinity teacher admits to more charges of sexual abuse of youth at summer camp
Published 6:27 p.m. ET May 17, 2017 | Updated 9:35 a.m. ET May 18, 2017
Deborah Yetter , @d_yetter
A retired Roman Catholic priest has admitted to charges involving sexual abuse of a boy in the late 1970s at a Meade County summer camp, according to prosecutors for Attorney General Andy Beshear who handled the case.
The guilty plea Wednesday by Joseph Hemmerle, 74, comes six months after he was convicted in Meade County of sexually molesting a boy in the 1970s at the same location, Camp Tall Trees at Otter Creek Park, which the Archdiocese of Louisville ran until 2002.
Hemmerle, who served at various parishes and also taught at Trinity High School, served as director of the camp from 1970 to 2001.
Hemmerle entered an Alford guilty plea Wednesday in Grayson Circuit Court in which he did not admit guilt but acknowledged there was sufficient evidence to convict him. The case involved allegations by a man who said Hemmerle sexually abused him while he was a boy at the camp in the summers of 1977 and 1978, according to a copy of the plea agreement.
Rev. Joseph Hemmerle. (Photo: C-J file photo)
It said the victim wished to settle the case and also to “show mercy on the defendant if Hemmerle would admit wrongdoing.” The victim “has taken into account defendant Hemmerle’s advanced age and does not desire to see him punished with a life sentence,” it said.The plea agreement represents “an outcome that will bring the victim peace of mind and give defendant Hemmerle a merciful outcome,” it said.
The agreement recommends a 10-year sentence with two years to serve and eight years of probation to run consecutively with any other sentence. Hemmerle was sentenced to seven years in prison for his conviction in the previous case.
Sentencing is scheduled June 29 in Meade Circuit Court.
The Louisville Archdiocese was hit with scores of similar allegations of abuse involving dozens of priests in the early 2000s and a class action lawsuit brought by 243 plaintiffs. It settled the lawsuit in 2003 for more than $25 million.
Contact reporter Deborah Yetter at 502-582-4228 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prosecutor outraged after ‘lenient’ plea deal on pedophile priest falls through
Posted: May 11, 2017 12:17 PM EST Updated: May 11, 2017 5:47 PM EST
By Gil Corsey
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — He’s both a convicted pedophile and a priest, and on Thursday Father Joseph Hemmerle was set to confess to molesting a second young boy.
“We spent weeks hammering out a plea agreement,” said Special Prosecutor Leilani Martin. “It was signed.”
It’s why Martin was stunned by the reversal in Meade County Circuit Court.
“Out of the blue, defense attorney David Lambertus decided not to go through with it — suddenly announced he was going to trial instead — and it was sort of a shock,” Martin said. “He announced it in the courtroom without his client present and just turned around and left.”
The attorney also refused to answer any questions from WDRB News outside the courthouse. The deal he turned down offered two years to serve for sex abuse and sodomy but no new prison time as Hemmerle’s already behind bars. He’s serving a 10-year sentence for child sex abuse charges dating back to the 1970s when he served at Camp Tall Trees.
Thursday’s case also stems from accusations at the camp. Taking it to trial, Hemmerle faces up to life in prison if convicted.
“You can see how lenient the plea agreement was and how forgiving my victim was willing to be,” Martin said. “He just wanted to give the guy a chance of resuming his life, and all he wanted him to do was admit he’d done some wrong. That was it.”
Technically, Fr. Hemmerle is still a catholic priest — just suspended from ministry. The abrupt reversal left prosecutors angry and stunned.
“I am disappointed with how it went today because it was an opportunity for the system to work exactly the way everybody wants it to work,” Martin said. “It was an opportunity for justice and mercy to happen at the same time.”
This plea agreement would have greatly changed Hemmerle’s story as he’s been steadfast about being falsely accused. For example, during a sentencing hearing in February Hemmerle said, “I state again under oath that I am innocent of all these charges.”
Martin said she’s not pulling the deal off the table, but she is prepared to go in trial on, May 18.