Priest Bids for Shock Probation
Miller's Served Time since May for Sex Abuse

By Jason Riley
The Courier-Journal [Louisville KY]
Downloaded December 6, 2003

The Rev. Louis Miller, a Roman Catholic priest convicted earlier this year of sexually abusing 29 children across four decades, will ask to be released from prison after serving about six months of a 20-year sentence.

Miller's attorney, David Lambertus, will request during a 3:30 p.m. hearing Monday that his client be released on shock probation, which spares first-time offenders from going to prison for long periods.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Ann O'Malley Shake, who sentenced Miller in May to 20 years in prison, will hear the motion; she said yesterday that it's unlikely she will make any decision at that time.

Miller, who has been a priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville for 47 years, pleaded guilty in Shake's court in March to 50 criminal charges involving 21 victims between 1956 and 1982.

An Oldham County judge later sentenced Miller to an additional 10 years after he pleaded guilty to abusing eight other children in the 1970s. Oldham County officials said Miller had not filed for shock probation there by closing yesterday.

Miller has been a central figure in the sexual-abuse crisis in the archdiocese. The first priest to be named in a lawsuit against the archdiocese, in April 2002, he was eventually accused in more than 90 of the lawsuits, the most of any of the dozens of priests named in the suits.

Miller has been serving his sentence at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange since May 27. The deadline to ask for shock probation under state law is six months. Lambertus filed such a motion last week.

Miller's victims reacted to his impending request yesterday with disgust, with some saying it opened wounds that were just beginning to heal.

"It's ludicrous," said Michael Turner, the first of more than 200 plaintiffs to file suit against the archdiocese. "He's a poison. He should never get out. I don't want this to ever happen to another child again."

Turner, a construction company owner who was one of the victims in the Oldham County case, said he would attend Monday's hearing and hoped to bring many others.

Bernard Queenan, one of the Jefferson County victims, said he also would oppose shock probation.

"This has been a life sentence for most of us," he said. "I just don't see it (shock probation) happening, not when you have as many people involved here."

Queenan cited a presentencing evaluation by a court-appointed expert that said Miller posed "moderate to high" risk of committing further crimes.

"Until that person changes their mind, I'm not likely to change mine," Queenan said.

"It's a slap in the face to all of his victims," said Sue Archibald, president of The Linkup, a Louisville-based advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse. "The thought that he could be put back in the public is the scariest concept. There will be an incredible amount of outrage."

Both Turner and Archibald called for the archdiocese to join with them in protesting Miller's release.

But Brian Reynolds, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said church leaders view Miller's request as a court matter. The archdiocese will continue to cooperate with prosecutors, he said, but "this matter is between Louis Miller and the criminal justice system. The archdiocese is playing no role in this."

Jeff Derouen, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, said the request for shock probation is not unusual and prosecutors would object to any early release for Miller. Derouen said nothing in Miller's plea prohibits a request for shock probation.

Shock probation is a provision of Kentucky law that allows release of an inmate after a brief period in prison under the theory that the short stay will "shock" the defendant so much that the person won't commit new crimes.

Carol Cobb, who prosecuted Miller in Jefferson County, was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Lambertus, Miller's attorney, did not return phone calls to his office yesterday.

Miller was accused of molesting more than 90 children in civil lawsuits against the archdiocese. All but one of those cases were included in the archdiocese's $25.7million settlement with 243 victims, and the remaining case is pending.

The suits alleged the archdiocese covered up knowledge of abuse.

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