Priest James Schook Gets 15 Years in Sodomy Case
By Claire Galofaro
April 17, 2014
|James Schook, 66, put his hand to his face during the penalty phase of his trial. Shook was found guilty April 16 on three counts of sodomy and one count of immoral behavior and was back in court for the sentencing phase of his trial. The jury ultimately recommended that Schook be sentenced to 15 years in prison. Schook, who has advanced cancer, will be allowed to remain on home incarceration until his formal sentencing on May 30. 17 April 2013 (Photo: David R. Lutman/Special to The CJ) View Fullscreen|
|The Rev. James Schook, left, walks with his brother Jesse Schook in the Jefferson County courthouse on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, a Louisville, Ky. A judge ruled Thursday that the 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. Schook is suffering from skin cancer and other ailments.|
A dying Catholic priest was sentenced to spend 15 years in prison Thursday for molesting a boy four decades ago, despite his plea that the jury consider his age and his illness, then be merciful.
James Schook, 66, was convicted of three counts sodomy and one count indecent or immoral practice for molesting a teenage altar boy for years in the 1970s, beginning when he was 13. The jury could have chosen a minimum sentence of two years, or a maximum of 25.
Schook's sentencing ends a sordid chapter in the local Catholic sex abuse crisis. The Archdiocese of Louisville, like others across the nation, has for years been accused of protecting pedophile priests and the church's reputation — at the expense of children.
Schook, a Roman Catholic priest with end-stage melanoma, was tried this week for abusing two boys. The jury convicted him in only one of the cases.
"I'm sad that it had to come to this," said Colleen Powell, a member of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who joined Schook's victims at the trial. "These two guys went through all this turmoil, it took this long. They are heroes, absolute heroes for coming forward and holding Mr. Schook's feet to the fire."
Judge Mitch Perry will impose his sentence on May 30. Schook leaned onto his walker and shuffled out of the courtroom. He ignored questions from reporters in the hallways, kept his head bowed and followed his lawyer onto the elevator.
Until his sentencing hearing, Schook with remain on home incarceration, monitored by an electronic ankle bracelet. Dwayne Clark, chief of staff at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections, which monitors the home incarceration program, said he could not say Thursday the address where he is staying.
Todd Henson, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections, said the Kentucky State Reformatory in Oldham County has a nursing care facility, with a hospice unit, that is capable of caring for terminally ill inmates.
Schook's trial has been delayed for years, as his lawyer, David Lambertus, insisted his client was on his deathbed and far too sick to proceed. Prosecutor John Balliet countered that he was exaggerating his illness to avoid facing a jury.
"No one should be fooled by his appearance or age," said David Clohessy, director of SNAP. "Child molesters are dangerous — whether young or old, healthy or sick. Let's keep in mind that Schook claimed, for months, to be too ill to attend his trial. And let's remember that child molesters often exaggerate their illnesses to win sympathy from jurors. So he may well be more healthy and mobile than he claims."
Lambertus asked the jury at the sentencing hearing Thursday to consider that Schook might only have a few months left to live. He asked them for leniency.
But Balliet said that leniency should be prefaced by responsibility and remorse. Schook said nothing at his sentencing hearing. The jury's verdict, Balliet said, forced him for the first time to take responsibility for what he did to the boys, who have lived with the trauma of it for decades.
Richard Whitfield told the jury this week that Schook propositioned him in the summer of 1971, when he was 13 years old. Whitfield, now 56, said the sexual relationship lasted for years. He was too ashamed to tell anyone, he said.
Another alleged victim, Michael Stansbury, told the jury that Schook abused him too. Stansbury said he kept it secret out of fear and shame, and his parents remained friends with Schook until the day they died. Schook was acquitted on that charge.
He did not deny that he had a sexual relationship with the boys. Rather, his attorney challenged memories and the details of the time frame. He argued that the boys were of legal age when the relationship began.
He asked the jury to remember they were not there to judge whether what he did was immoral — God will see to that when Schook soon dies, he said. Rather their job was to determine criminal liability.
Schook, ordained in 1975, has been a central character for years in the local Catholic sex abuse crisis that exploded in 2002, and left some deeply critical of how the Louisville archdiocese handled abusive priests.
The Archdiocese of Louisville released a statement after his sentencing Thursday, that emphasized that Schook was removed from active ministry when allegations surfaced in 2009, and that the archdiocese cooperated with police and prosecutors throughout the investigation.
"The Archdiocese acknowledges and deeply regrets the painful stories shared by the victims during these proceeding," it read.
Schook was temporarily removed from ministry in 2009, then permanently removed him the following year when it determined the allegations credible. Though he retained the status of priest, he was sent to live a life of "prayer and penance."
In 2011, prosecutors the Archdiocese's personnel file on Schook, which revealed he'd admitted to being a sex addict, though administrators believed he was involved with men rather than boys.
Prosecutors in August 2011 released hundreds of pages of the Archdiocese of Louisville's personnel file on Schook. The files revealed that Schook had been treated for a sex addiction in the 1980s, church officials were aware of it, but thought he was involved with grown men. The files also showed, among other things, that Schook admitted having paid a man for sex.
Schook lived at St. Therese Church in 2009 and 2010, after the allegations came to light. Margie Weiter, a bookkeeper at the church, protested his residency, and the church soon fired her citing budgetary reasons. She sued, though Perry later dismissed her claims.
Schook was the 10th priest removed from ministry over allegations of abuse, and the sixth to face criminal charges. Only one of them received a sentence stiffer than what the jury handed Schook Thursday.
Louis Miller, 83, is serving a 30-year prison sentence at the Kentucky State Reformatory. He pleaded guilty in 2003 to abusing 29 kids in Jefferson and Oldham counties over three decades.