Victim Testifies against Louisville Priest on Trial for Sexual Abuse Allegations
By Katrina Helmer
November 28, 2016
- Fr. Joseph Hemmerle is facing nine counts of sexual abuse and sodomy, and in court Monday, the victim explained to the jury the moment he says his life changed forever.
A victim, who is now 53 years old and lives in Texas, relived what he claims was a nightmare at camp.
"He's sitting right there," the victim said, pointing at Fr. Hemmerle.
Fr. Hemmerle is accused of sexually abusing and sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in the 1970s at Tall Trees Camp in Meade County.
He helped run the camp for at least 30 years.
The victim told the jury that he had poison ivy at camp and that Fr. Hemmerle offered to treat it. But that's when the victim says Fr. Hemmerle abused him.
"He asked me, 'how does this feel?'" the victim recalled.
The victim says after it was over, he ran off ... scared and confused. The victim says he didn't tell his mother because he didn't think anyone would believe him.
"I was taught that this man was God, and you do what they tell you," the victim said.
Fr. Hemmerle's attorney says no one disputes they were at camp together, but he argues the priest, who was ordained in 1967, is innocent.
"We obviously disagree that there was any sexual impropriety whatsoever," David Lambertus said.
During cross examination, Lambertus asked the victim about when he confronted Hemmerle in 2008 after reporting the abuse.
"Throughout, he said he denied that he had done anything criminal to you. He said basically, 'I'm sorry you feel this way, that anyone did something to you,'" Lambertus said.
"It wasn't throughout," the victim replied. "As soon as I walked in the door he said, 'I didn't do it!'"
The victim says he broke his silence to police in 2002 because he needed closure.
"My whole motivation in this is to keep another child from going through what I went through," the victim said.
The Archdiocese of Louisville put Fr. Hemmerle on leave after the accusations came to light in 2014.