Priest Pleads Guilty, Won't Face Jail Time
Rev. Schoettmer Convicted of Molesting Boy
By Sharon Turco and Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer [Cincinnati OH]
Downloaded June 12, 2003
The Rev. Ken Schoettmer became the first Greater Cincinnati priest in
nearly a decade to be convicted of abusing a child when he pleaded guilty
Wednesday to molesting a 17-year-old boy.
The 61-year-old suspended priest will not go to jail, but faces removal
from the priesthood.
A Hamilton County judge sentenced Schoettmer to probation, allowing the
victim, now 20, to avoid the agony of testifying in an open court trial.
|The Rev. Ken Schoettmer (right), a former
priest at Queen of Peace Church, pleaded guilty Wednesday to molesting
a 17-year-old boy. (Ernest Coleman photo)
Although several other priests have been accused of sexual misconduct
during the past year, Schoettmer is the first Greater Cincinnati priest
to be convicted of sex charges since the Rev. Earl Bierman went to prison
in 1993 for abusing six boys in northern Kentucky.
Schoettmer, a former priest at Queen of Peace church in Butler County,
pleaded in Common Pleas Court to one count of gross sexual imposition
in exchange for the dismissal of additional charges of rape and sexual
Prosecutor Mike Allen said the plea deal was necessary because the victim
did not want to testify.
"Obviously, jail time would have been in order," Allen said.
"But the victim was adamant. If it could at all be avoided, he did
not want to testify."
Prosecutors said the offense occurred in June 1999 when Schoettmer attended
a movie in Cincinnati with a teenager who was not affiliated with his
Without warning, prosecutors said, Schoettmer leaned over and fondled
"The victim didn't stop it," said Assistant Prosecutor Mark
Piepmeier. "He felt awkward. His defense mechanism was just to freeze
Judge Robert Ruehlman sentenced Schoettmer to five years' probation and
declared him a sexually oriented offender, which means for the next 10
years he will have to record his address at the sheriff's office in the
county where he lives.
The judge warned him to avoid contact with children and to attend counseling
sessions for sex offenders.
Ruehlman could have imposed an 18-month prison sentence.
"If you violate any condition, I'll give you a year and a half,"
Ruehlman told Schoettmer. "No question about that."
Schoettmer left the courtroom without comment, but his lawyer, Tom Heekin
Jr., said "he has expressed complete remorse."
The plea is not the first time Schoettmer has admitted to sexual misconduct.
He stunned parishioners at Queen of Peace two years ago when he confessed
to them that he had three sexual encounters with boys between 1984 and
Because the other two cases occurred so long ago, the statute of limitations
barred prosecutors from charging Schoettmer in those cases.
Officials at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said Schoettmer, who has been
suspended since 2001, will now face formal proceedings to remove him from
"The sad reality that some members of the Roman Catholic clergy have
abused children continues to be a source of great distress to the entire
Catholic community and great pain to me personally," Archbishop Daniel
Pilarczyk said Wednesday in a statement.
"I wish to express again ... my sorrow that anyone associated with
the archdiocese would commit this terrible crime."
Schoettmer, a priest for 35 years, is living in a church-related facility
where no children are present, Heekin said. Church officials said Schoettmer
has worked for the past two years in a clerical job for the archdiocese.
Schoettmer is one of two priests indicted on sex charges this year in
Hamilton County. The other, George Cooley, admitted in 1991 to molesting
four boys and served a total of 18 months in jail. The new charge against
Cooley accuses him of molesting a boy from 1984 to 1988. The boy was 8
years old when the incidents began.
The charges are the result of a yearlong investigation by prosecutors
into allegations of abuse involving Catholic priests. The investigation
began when the archbishop disclosed that four unnamed priests remained
employed by the church despite past allegations of abuse
Four other priests have since been suspended or have taken voluntary leave
because of misconduct allegations.
Allen has said that most of the allegations are too old to prosecute or
involve priests who are now deceased. He said many of the victims also
have been reluctant to pursue charges that might require them to testify
Piepmeier said that was the case with the victim in the Schoettmer case.
He said the victim, who did not attend the hearing Wednesday, was more
interested in an admission of guilt than a prison sentence.
"He wanted (Schoettmer) to come forward and admit what he did, and
what he did was wrong," Piepmeier said.