Trial Date Set for Ill Priest Charged with Child Sex Abuse
By Jason Riley
December 17, 2012
|Rev. James Schook, 2008 file photo / The Courier-Journal|
Prosecutors on Monday asked a judge to set a trial date for Rev. James Schook, whose trial on charges of child sexual abuse was delayed six months ago because prosecutors thought he only had months to live.
With Shook’s health about the same, the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office said there had been a misunderstanding about how long the Roman Catholic priest could survive.
Jefferson County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Balliet said that while patients like Schook - who has an aggressive form of melanoma that began with a lesion on his back and spread - may live less than a year, he could also survive for up to five or six years.
“It was my belief,” after talking earlier this year with Dr. George R. Nichols II, the former longtime chief medical examiner for the state of Kentucky, “that we should hold off,” Balliett said.
But in more recent discussions, Balliett said, he learned that these estimates vary from patient to patient and Schook, 65, could live a matter of days, months or years.
“There was a misunderstanding on my part as to what the end result could be,” he said. “...I think at this point we need to go forward. It’s important for the victims.”
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry set a trial date for June 24. The trial could last from 3 days to a week. Schook had been scheduled to face trial in May of this year.
Schook was indicted in 2011 on seven felony sodomy counts based on allegations that he sexually abused two boys between 1971 and 1975. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Cal Pfeiffer, of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he believed Schook is simply trying to delay the case as long as possible.
“That’s no justice for the victims,” two men who say the priest abused them when they were boys in the early 1970s.
Schook's attorney, David Lambertus, declined to comment after the short court hearing Monday.
Balliett said he recently received a letter from Lambertus saying Schook’s health was the same as before.
The Archdiocese of Louisville temporarily removed Schook from ministry in 2009 when it received an allegation of past sexual abuse . The archdiocese permanently removed Schook from ministry in early 2010 when it concluded the allegations against him were credible, although he has retained the status of priest.
Prosecutors in August 2011 released hundreds of pages of the Archdiocese of Louisville's personnel file on Schook. The documents indicated that Schook had been treated for a sex addiction in the 1980s but that church officials believed at the time that he had been sexually involved with male adults, not minors.
Reporter Jason Riley can be reached at 584-2197