Judge Denies Probation for Priest Convicted of Youth Sex Abuse at Summer Camp
By Matthew Glowick
September 19, 2017
A Meade County judge has denied a probation request by a Roman Catholic priest found guilty of molesting a boy at a summer camp in the 1970s.
Joseph Hemmerle, 75, was found guilty at trial in November 2016 of a single count of immoral or indecent practice with a child and was sentenced to seven years in prison in February.
His accuser, Michael Norris, had testified that at Camp Tall Trees in 1973, Hemmerle told him to report to his cabin one night to treat poison ivy. The priest told him to strip and stand on a stool before touching him sexually with his hands and mouth, Norris testified.
Camp Tall Trees at Otter Creek Park in Meade County was run by the Archdiocese of Louisville until 2002. Hemmerle was a director there from 1970 until about 2001.
In August, Hemmerle asked a judge for shock probation, which allows certain eligible offenders an early release from prison.
Late last week, Circuit Judge Bruce Butler denied that motion, online court records show.
In a second criminal case of sexual abuse of a boy at Camp Tall Trees, Hemmerle entered an Alford plea in May, maintaining his innocence while acknowledging prosecutors had enough evidence to secure a conviction.
According to that plea agreement, the victim wanted to settle the case and "show mercy on the defendant if Hemmerle would admit wrongdoing."
The victim "has taken into account defendant Hemmerle's advanced age and does not desire to see him punished with a life sentence," it reads.
Hemmerle accepted two years in prison and eight years probation on charges of wanton endangerment and sexual abuse.
After being allowed to return to the ministry following the first accusation by Norris in 2001, Hemmerle served as pastor of Holy Cross and St. Francis of Assisi, both near Loretto, Kentucky, archdiocese officials previously told the Courier-Journal.
Criminal charges were not brought until another accuser from the camp came forward in 2014.
Hemmerle is housed at Roederer Assessment Center near LaGrange, Kentucky, and will be eligible for parole in February 2018, according to the Kentucky Department of Metro Corrections.
According to an archdiocese spokeswoman, Hemmerle remains a priest suspended from the ministry and has been told not to present himself as a priest.
Once the criminal cases were wrapped, the matter was to "be given to the Holy See for a final determination of his status as a priest," reads an archdiocese statement.
The Archdiocese of Louisville asks any victim of sexual abuse by church employees to contact 502-636-1044 or email@example.com.
Reporter Matthew Glowicki can be reached at 502-582-4989 or firstname.lastname@example.org.