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Ky. jury says ex-priest should serve 15 years

April 17, 2014
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A jury says a former Catholic priest stricken with late-stage cancer should serve a 15-year prison sentence for sexually abusing a teenage boy at a Louisville church in the early 1970s.

James Schook's attorney urged the jury to give the former church leader a more lenient sentence, since the 66-year-old is terminally ill. A judge will make a final determination on Schook's punishment on May 30.

Attorney David Lambertus said Schook has lived longer than was expected, so he may not have much time left. Lambertus had asked for a sentence that would allow Schook to seek parole in two years.

"If you're talking about time in someone's life, I think it's fair to say how much life is left there?" Lambertus told the jury Thursday morning.

Schook was convicted Wednesday of three counts of sodomy and one count of indecent or immoral practice with another, a felony that has a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison. The sodomy charges ranged from two to five years. The jury declined to convict Schook on a sodomy charge for the alleged abuse of a second teenage boy dating to the mid-1970s.

Prosecutor John Balliet said a 15-year sentence would be "very appropriate." He told the jury that Schook's health problems should not factor into punishment for the crimes he committed.

Lambertus declined to comment after court ended Thursday.

David Whitfield testified at the trial that he was 13 when he began a years-long sexual relationship with Schook. Whitfield was interested in becoming a priest, and he said the two often had sexual encounters in Schook's room on church property.

Balliet said Schook took advantage of his position of trust with Whitfield.

"He was supposed to be guiding Richard on the path to becoming a priest," Balliet said. Instead, Whitfield learned "all the wrong things about a relationship."

Schook was indicted in 2011, but sought several delays of the trial due to his failing health. He was permanently removed from ministry in 2010.

The Archdiocese of Louisville paid a $25.7 million settlement in 2003 with 243 victims who claimed they were sexually abused by clergy or other staff. Louisville Archdiocese priests convicted of sex abuse over the last decade have faced a range of criminal punishments.

Former priest Louis A. Miller is serving a 30-year prison sentence for sexually abusing 29 children between the 1950s and 1980s. The Rev. Edwin Scherzer was put on five years of house arrest in 2005 for sexually abusing four boys. Former priest Daniel C. Clark was sentenced to probation in 2008 for sexually abusing two boys in neighboring Bullitt County between 1999 and 2002.

The Rev. James Hargadon died in 2005 after serving a year of an eight-year sentence for abusing three boys in the 1970s.

 
 

 

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