“Priest convicted of sex abuse sentenced to 7 years” & related articles

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Courier-Journal    (Kentucky)


BRANDENBURG, Ky. – A Louisville priest convicted of sexually abusing a boy at a summer camp he used to run has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

Media report the judge followed a jury’s recommendation when handing down the sentence on Thursday for The Rev. Joseph Hemmerle, who maintained his innocence during the hearing.

Hemmerle was convicted in a November trial in Meade County on one count of indecent or immoral practices with a child under 15.

Hemmerle, who is 74, was charged with committing the offenses at his Catholic summer camp in the 1970s. The Archdiocese of Louisville put Hemmerle on leave when accusations first surfaced in 2014.


Jury recommends 7 year sentence for priest convicted of sex abuse

WHAS 11    ABC

11:23 PM. EST November 29, 2016

BRANDENBURG, Ky. (AP) — A jury has recommended a seven-year sentence for a Louisville priest convicted of sexual abuse.

The Rev. Joseph Hemmerle was convicted Tuesday of indecent or immoral practices with a child under 15 at his Catholic summer camp in the 1970s.

The 74-year-old priest testified Tuesday during a trial in Meade County that he would occasionally apply calamine lotion to the genitals of child campers, with their permission. But he testified that he never abused the alleged victim, Michael Norris.

Norris said when he was 10 years old, Hemmerle stood him on a stool with no clothes and sexually abused him in Hemmerle’s personal cabin.

The Meade County jury earlier Tuesday found the Rev. Joseph Hemmerle guilty of one count of indecent or immoral practices with a child under 15 at his Catholic summer camp in the 1970s. He was found not guilty of a second count and faced up to 10 years in prison.


Louisville priest’s molestation trial begins

Courier-Journal  (Kentucky)

Published 6:24 p.m. ET Nov. 28, 2016 | Updated 6:53 p.m. ET Nov. 28, 2016

BRANDENBURG, Ky. — Michael Norris was a 10-year-old Catholic school student from Louisville in 1973 when he spent a week playing games and sleeping in cabins at Camp Tall Trees, a popular summer camp at Otter Creek Park run by the Archdiocese of Louisville.

It was there, Norris told a Meade County jury on Monday, that the Rev. Joseph Hemmerle, who ran the camp for 35 years, asked him one night to his cabin to treat a bad case of poison ivy.

Norris was told to strip and stand on a stool, while Hemmerle applied topical medicine and then used his hands and mouth to touch him sexually, he said, asking him if it felt good. Afterward, he was in shock: “God, what just happened? What is this?” he recalled thinking.

Norris, 53, didn’t tell anyone for years, he said, choking back tears on the witness stand — afraid he wouldn’t be believed. When he finally did as an adult in 2001, it didn’t result in charges until a second accuser came forward more than a decade later.

“I’ve suffered for 43 years,” Norris said, glancing at Hemmerle sitting a few feet away on the opening day of the trial in which the former Trinity High School teacher faces sex-abuse related charges of immoral or indecent practices.

Hemmerle’s attorney, David Lambertus, said in his opening statement that the charges lacked physical evidence and denied there had been “any sexual impropriety whatsoever.”

Meade County prosecutors rested their case at the end of the first day, calling a handful of witnesses including a fellow camper who recalled Norris being absent from the boys’ cabin, a detective who investigated the case and Dennis Wagner, a psychologist who spoke to Hemmerle in 2001 at the request of former Archbishop Thomas Kelly.

That came after Norris wrote a letter to Hemmerle and Louisville archdiocese officials. His letter was sent just months before a slew of plaintiffs sued the archdiocese, alleging sexual abuse by dozens of priests. The archdiocese settled a class action lawsuit with 243 plaintiffs in 2003 for more than $25 million. Norris never joined the suit, saying the case wasn’t about money.

Wagner said Hemmerle acknowledged that he applied medicine to boys’ genitals when they had poison ivy but didn’t think of it as sexual. Wagner said he concluded based on available information that Hemmerle didn’t seem to have a tendency to abuse.

Norris also reported the incident to police but no criminal charges were filed and Hemmerle was reinstated in 2002. He was placed on administrative leave again in 2014 as pastor of two Marion County parishes after a second person made allegations and Hemmerle was indicted on sex abuse and sodomy charges, which prosecutors said was later amended to reflect the statutes at the time. Hemmerle declined to comment outside the courtroom.

Norris, a Navy veteran and engineer who lives in Texas, said he’d been raised in the church and attended Trinity High, where he had Hemmerle as a teacher for Latin. He later moved to a public high school, he said.

Norris said the incident haunted him. “I felt dirty,” he said. He has had to get counseling. The archdiocese closed Camp Tall Trees in 2002.

In 2008, Norris said he went to Hemmerle’s office to confront him, and he said that Hemmerle denied that anything had occurred. “I wanted to let him know … the impact it had on me,” he said.

The defense will take up its case on Tuesday. The second accuser, whose name hasn’t been made public, is part of a separate trial scheduled for next year.

Hemmerle, a native of the California neighborhood who attended the old St. Benedict Catholic Elementary School, taught religion at Trinity after his ordination in 1967, the Courier-Journal reported in 2002. He also coached wrestling and track teams, and directed the now-closed boys’ camp from 1971 until about 2001.

Since 2003, after being allowed to return to the ministry following the first accusation, Hemmerle has served as pastor of Holy Cross and St. Francis of Assisi, both near Loretto, Ky., archdiocese officials said.

Reporter Chris Kenning can be reached at 502-582-4697 or ckenning@courier-journal.com


Man who accused priest of sexual abuse shares his story

WAVE 3  News


LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The man who says a Kentucky priest molested him as a child is sharing his story days after another man came forward saying he was sexually abused by the same priest.

Father Joseph Hemmerle has been placed on administrative leave as lead pastor from two Marion County churches since this second accusation.

Michael Norris is a Louisville native who now lives in Houston and works as a chemical engineer. Late last week he found out another man has come forward accusing Father Joseph Hemmerle of sexual abuse.

“The church confirmed to me that the victim was abused at Camp Tall Trees, which is the same place I was abused so quite honestly that place was open for probably 30 years, we’re not the only two, I’m sure there are more,” said Norris.

Norris said he attended Camp Tall Trees in Meade County when he was 11. He said he got a bad case of poison ivy and Hemmerle told him he could help.

“He asked me to come back to his cabin that evening, so I showed up to his cabin and I was sexually abused,” said Norris.

The now 51-year-old said it took more than decade for him to tell anyone. It was in 2002 when he said he made a mistake by telling the Archdiocese of Louisville first instead of the police.

Back then Hemmerle was suspended and removed as a teacher at Trinity High School.

The Archdiocese of Louisville released in a statement that Father Hemmerle was reassigned after police never filed any charges and after an internal investigation.

“I was never questioned by the church about the allegation,” said Norris. “I can describe the room it happened in, I can described exactly what happened. It’s a very vivid memory I have. It’s something I think about almost every day, but they never questioned me let they claim they’ve done an investigation. That’s hogwash. That’s not true.”

Norris said he is not after money.

“I will never take a penny from them,” said Norris.

Instead all he hopes for is justice. “Quite honestly I’ve forgiven him,” said Norris. “He’s a human being just like the rest of us, but he does need to pay for what he did, because what he did was illegal and it was wrong.”

The Archdiocese of Louisville responded to our request for an interview with this statement:

“Based upon information from the single accusation we had in 2002, neither the Archdiocese nor the police could substantiate the accusation. The Archdiocese conducted an internal investigation, and the police never filed any charges after their investigation of several months. Therefore, Fr. Hemmerle received a new assignment.

When we received the new accusation last week,  we immediately suspended Fr. Hemmerle from ministry and reported the information to the authorities.  The Archdiocese will fully cooperate with any police investigation.”

The Archdiocese is urging anyone who has been victimized by a member of the clergy or a church employee to contact Martine Siegel, victim assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese of Louisville, at 502-636-1044 or victimassistance@archlou.org.

1 Response to “Priest convicted of sex abuse sentenced to 7 years” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    And so, Michael Norris first reported Father Hemmerle to officials with the Archdiocese of Lousville, Ky and then to police in 2001 . At the time, Hemmerele was suspended, – the diocese conducted an “internal” investigation, police investigated and did not lay charges, and “the Archdiocese of Louisville released in a statement that Father Hemmerle was reassigned after police never filed any charges and after an internal investigation.”

    And now, finally, some justice on this earth: a jury has found that Father Hemmerele did indeed molest Michael Norris when he was an 11-year-old boy.

    Thanks to Michael Norris and the other complainant Father Hemmerle has been identified as the molester that he is. Hemmerle has been sentenced to 7 years in jail.

    Please keep Michael Norris, and the other complainant who came forward , in your prayers. True Hemmerle was acquitted on the charges related to the other complainant’s allegations, but, if I read and understand the articles correctly, it was his coming forward that opened the door for police to re-investigate Michael’s allegations. As I see it, as disappointing as the acquittal must be, there would be no conviction had that complainant not opened that door which had previously been firmly closed.

    Please keep Michael Norris and the complainant in your prayers.

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