Miller Gets 20 Years
Retired Priest Says He's 'Very, Very Sorry'
By Gregory Hall
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
May 28, 2003
A Jefferson Circuit Court judge sentenced the Rev. Louis E. Miller yesterday to 20 years in prison , saying he had received leniency during the decades he sexually abused children but was not brought to justice .
Judge Ann O'Malley Shake told the retired Roman Catholic priest that she considered the "tender years of your victims at the times of these offenses; " the locations of the abuse, including churches and family functions; and the impact on the victims' lives.
She said she wanted to sentence Miller to 21 years - one year for each of his victims in the criminal case in Jefferson County - but was limited to 20 years because Miller opted to be sentenced under current law rather than face the possibility of 400 years under law that existed at the time of most of the crimes.
Miller will be eligible for parole in four years. He also can seek shock probation after he has served a month of his sentence .
Before being sentenced, he faced his victims - now all adults - and asked for forgiveness.
"I stand before God to be judged later, and I am very, very sorry for all the pain I have inflicted upon you, your families and your children and whoever else may be hurt because of this," Miller said. "My apologies to our society, to our church, to my brother priests, to my archbishop, now and past."
Miller pleaded guilty March 31 to 50 criminal charges, involving 21 victims, between 1956 and 1982. He is the first priest to be sentenced in connection with the sexual- abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of Louisville, which first received attention in April 2002 in a Courier-Journal story about two suits from the 1990s that accused Miller of abuse.
In the past 13 months, 252 suits have been filed against the archdiocese, accusing 35 priests and others connected with the church of abuse and charging that the archdiocese covered up alleged abuse - a charge the organization denies. Miller is named in 94 of those suits.
One victim in the criminal case, who is also a plaintiff in one of the civil suits, said after the sentencing that he was pleased that Miller won't be free to abuse other children.
"It's essentially a life sentence," said Bernard Queenan, who was a student at Church of the Holy Spirit when he was abused by Miller in 1960. If Miller "ends up doing half the time, then in all likelihood that'll be essentially a life sentence."
But other victims, also speaking after the sentencing, questioned the sincerity of the 72-year-old retired priest's remarks.
John Eifler, a victim from Holy Spirit parish, said he thought Miller's "facial expressions didn't relay the words he was saying. ... I was hoping he could be sincere, but his body language said he wasn't."
Mary C. Miller, a niece whom the priest abused, said: "I hope that he meant it. I hope that it was from his heart and not because he knows he's going to jail. He's hurt a lot of people, and I just hope that he realizes what he's done."
IN ADDITION to the sentence in his Jefferson County criminal case, Miller is scheduled to go on trial June 9 in Oldham Circuit Court on 14 charges of child sexual abuse.
Queenan and some other victims said they have forgiven Miller. "I won't sleep better tonight because he's in jail other than the fact that I know he won't be hurting anybody else," Queenan said.
In a statement released by spokeswoman Cecelia Price, the archdiocese said: "The fact that Father Louis Miller has pled guilty and has received Judge Shake's sentence is important for his victims, for the Church, and for the community. We have full confidence in the ability of the criminal justice system to address the crime of childhood sexual abuse."
Some supporters of Miller, including other priests and relatives, asked Shake to place the priest on home incarceration. The judge noted, however, that a court-ordered evaluation indicated there was a "moderate to high" risk that Miller would commit further crimes.
"You yourself have recently disclosed that you continue to have sexual urges," she said. "As one of your victims wrote to the court: 'Not one more child should be abused. Give him no opportunities. Please, no more. None.'"
Before his sentencing, Miller made an unusual address to everyone in the courtroom.
Normally, defendants' remarks are directed to the judge. But Miller stood and walked toward Shake , thanking her. He then thanked the prosecutor and the media assembled before walking to the defense table and addressing his victims for several minutes
In addition to begging their forgiveness, Miller said he is willing to meet with victims in groups or individual settings with counselors present.
HE ENDED by saying: "Be assured I will continue living a life of penance daily for all of you who I have in any way afflicted, assaulted, abused. I ask your prayers too for me. One other note, I am a full supporter of Archbishop (Thomas C.) Kelly."
During the sentencing, prosecutor Carol Cobb took note of the impact statements that victims filed with the court . They suggested penalties ranging from leniency to capital punishment.
Any sentence less than 20 years would not fit the seriousness of Miller's crime, she said.
Cobb said she would object to any requests for probation by Miller. "The harm that he has done to these children can never be rectified," she said.
In a deposition given Thursday in connection with the civil lawsuits against the archdiocese, Miller admitted that he was a pedophile and said that three archbishops knew of his problems and kept him in the priesthood.
In an interview outside the courtroom, William McMurry, the attorney for most of the plaintiffs in the suits, cited the court-ordered report that rated Miller's likelihood of reoffending and noted that Miller has for years received psychological treatment paid for by the archdiocese.
"It is hard for me to imagine that Archbishop Thomas Kelly would not have been aware of that high risk or that moderate to high risk over the last 12 to 15 years," McMurry said.
Queenan, who said he was upset by Miller's defense of Kelly during his statement, said the most important message from the sentencing goes "to every Catholic all over the world" who stood by as Miller committed crimes.
"Those of you out there in the pews, it's time for you to speak up and get involved and hold the archbishop accountable that this type of thing doesn't happen," Queenan said. "We've got to open up what's going on over there in the chancery office."
WHEN MILLER entered the courtroom yesterday, he was carrying a plastic bag with "Personal Belongings" printed on it . He wore a gray sport coat and an olive shirt. Before being escorted out of the courtroom by sheriff's deputies, he handed the coat to a deputy and asked that it be given to his brother, who was in the courtroom.
Like all inmates entering the prison system, Miller will go to a center in La Grange for an assessment to determine where he should be housed, said Lisa Lamb, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections.
At that point, his medical and mental- health treatment needs will be determined, she said.
"During this time, he will have the opportunity to raise concerns" about his safety, Lamb said. Also, corrections officials will take note of any threats they might have heard about.
If Miller needs to be segregated on a long-term basis, he could be housed in protective custody at the state prison in Eddyville, Lamb said. The corrections department also has a nursing-care facility at La Grange if Miller's medical conditions should require it, she said.
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