Louisville Priest Convicted of Sexual Abuse in the 70s Has Been Denied Parole by Board
By Darcy Costello
Louisville Courier Journal
December 21, 2017
|Rev. Joseph Hemmerle.|
A Roman Catholic priest found guilty of molesting a boy at summer camp in the 1970s will not be immediately released on parole.
The Kentucky Parole Board instead voted to give Father Joseph Hemmerle a 24-month deferment, meaning his case will be considered by the board again in two years, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said Thursday.
Hemmerle was sentenced in February to seven years in prison after being found guilty at trial in November 2016 of a single count of immoral or indecent practice with a child. He is being held at Green River Correctional Complex, Lamb said.
The 24-month deferment was a unanimous decision from the two-member panel, Lamb said. It came after a victim impact hearing held Monday.
A Meade County judge denied a probation request from Hemmerle earlier this year after he asked for shock probation, which allows certain eligible offenders an early release from prison.
Hemmerle's accuser, Michael Norris, testified at trial 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 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 Courier Journal.
Criminal charges were not brought until another accuser from the camp came forward in 2014.
Hemmerle remains a priest suspended from the ministry, according to a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Suspended priests are restricted from unsupervised contact with minors and may not say Mass publicly or administer the sacraments, a statement from spokeswoman Cecelia Price said.
"Priests who have been suspended are restricted from all ministry and all unsupervised contact with minors," the statement said. "They may not say Mass publicly or administer the sacraments, and they may not wear clerical garb or present themselves as a priests."