Judge Says Dying Ky. Priest Fit to Stand Trial
November 7, 2013
A terminally ill Catholic priest accused of abusing two boys at a Louisville church in the 1970s is not too sick to stand trial on sodomy charges, a judge ruled Thursday.
A state doctor who examined the Rev. James Schook in July testified at a hearing Thursday that the accused priest is very ill but still healthy enough to endure a criminal trial.
Schook, 65, understands the court proceedings and "is able to rationally participate in his defense," said Dr. Amy Trivette, a psychiatrist at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mitch Perry scheduled a trial for March 31.
Schook, who was indicted on seven sodomy counts in 2011, is suffering from terminal skin cancer and other ailments and is staying at an assisted living center. Several court proceedings over the past two years have been postponed due to his poor health.
During Thursday's two-hour hearing, Schook did not speak and kept his head bowed while sitting in a chair, a walker at his side.
Schook's attorney, David Lambertus, said the priest's health has steadily declined since he was examined over the summer and relatives testified that Schook requires round-the-clock care.
His brother, Jesse Schook, said Schook has lost about 60 pounds and suffers from intense pain, dizziness and has paranoid episodes. He can no longer drive or operate a computer and needs a walker to move around most of the time, Jesse Schook said.
"He should be dead," Jesse Schook said, referring to his cancer prognosis. "According to the statistics, he should be dead."
Schook's family declined to comment after the hearing.
Schook is accused of abusing two boys in the 1970s at St. Thomas More Church in Louisville, where he was an assistant pastor. One of the two, Michael Stansbury, said after court Thursday that he was disappointed that a trial was still five months away. Stansbury was a member of a youth group at the church when he says the abuses occurred.
"It infuriates me that the system keeps taking so long," Stansbury said. "It has been 38 years (since the alleged abuse) and I relive it every day."
Lambertus asserted throughout the hearing that Schook's health has rapidly declined in recent months and his numerous medications could affect his comprehension during a trial.
A witness called by Jefferson County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Balliet testified that she saw Schook at a Louisville restaurant on Sept. 27 and he was walking without assistance and was "having a good time."
"He walked in; he didn't have the scooter that's here today," said Helen Deines, who once attended a Louisville church where Schook was pastor. "He didn't look like someone who was terminally ill."
Balliet said Schook has been exaggerating his symptoms in order to delay a trial.
"I would submit to the court, based on the evidence before the court today, that what we're seeing today is part of an act," Balliet said. "That's a lot of what's going on here."
Schook has been allowed to retain the title of priest, but he was permanently removed from ministry in 2010.