William Casey Hearing Continued

By Ken Little
Wilson Post
November 29, 2018

William Casey

William Casey will have to wait until 2019 to find out if his most recent bid for a new trial will be granted by a Sullivan County Criminal Court judge.

Another trial remains a possibility for the former Catholic priest and Greene County resident, based on an opinion filed in May by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals at Knoxville.

Casey had a post-conviction hearing scheduled Wednesday in Sullivan County Criminal Court. Judge James F. Goodwin granted a continuation until March 15, 2019, so 2nd Judicial District Attorney General Barry Staubus Jr. and Casey’s 2011 trial defense lawyers could review a brief filed Monday in support of a new trial submitted by his current defense lawyer, Francis “Frank” Santore Jr.

Casey, who turns 85 on Jan. 4, was found guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of aggravated rape in 2011 by a Sullivan County Criminal Court jury.

The sex abuse charges stemmed from conduct that occurred in 1979 and 1980, while victim Warren Tucker attended a school associated with St. Dominic Catholic Church in Kingsport. Casey was a priest at the church and Tucker was an altar boy.

Casey, who lived for many years in the Camp Creek community, was sentenced in November 2011 to a 35-year prison term. He won’t be eligible for parole consideration until 2025 when he is 91, according to the state Department of Correction.


In June 2017, Goodwin denied a petition for post-conviction relief seeking a new trial for Casey. Santore filed an appeal on the Sullivan County Criminal Court ruling with the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Casey challenged his criminal sexual conduct and aggravated rape convictions in that appeal. He alleged errors at trial, prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on earlier appeals.

Goodwin entered a preliminary order last year dismissing all of Casey’s claims of errors at trial, prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of appellate counsel “and the majority of his claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel,” the order states.

Following an evidentiary hearing on Casey’s remaining claims, the post-conviction court entered an order denying Casey relief.

In his appeal filed later in 2017 with the Court of Criminal Appeals, Casey contended that the post-conviction court “erred in dismissing the majority of his claims before the evidentiary hearing and in finding that (Casey) failed to establish during the evidentiary hearing that he is entitled to relief as to his remaining claims.”

While affirming in part the post-conviction court’s judgment in an appeal, the three-member Court of Criminal Appeals panel concluded in May that the post-conviction court “erred in dismissing (Casey’s) claims of ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal without conducting an evidentiary hearing.”

The Court of Criminal Appeals remanded the case back to the post-conviction court for an evidentiary hearing “on the issues of ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal that were dismissed by the court in its preliminary order.”

Accordingly, “the post-conviction court’s judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part,” the opinion states.

The court of Criminal Appeals remanded the case back to the post-conviction court for the evidentiary hearing pertaining to issues including ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.

Santore was retained in 2015 by Casey. His lawyers at trial and in initial appeals were Richard “Rick” Spivey and Matthew Spivey, of Kingsport.

“The (appellate court) agreed with me and conceded the court was wrong in Sullivan County,” Santore said recently. “All it means is that we get to litigate it in a post-conviction (setting). If the court finds in a post-conviction hearing that there is clear and convincing evidence that but for the trial error, (Casey) would not have been convicted, in that event, the court reverses the verdict and orders a new trial.”

Santore said that the opinion issued by the appellate court is encouraging, but added that the ruling does not necessarily mean Casey will be granted a new trial.

Casey’s evidentiary hearing has now been continued twice.

Casey, who is serving his time at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, was present at Wednesday’s scheduled Criminal Court hearing in Blountville.

Robert H. Montgomery Jr., the trial judge in 2011, is now a judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals. He recused himself from participation in Casey’s latest appeal.


Victim Warren Tucker disclosed the abuse by Casey to law enforcement in 2009 and made his allegations public in 2010 after contacting the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests group, known by the acronym SNAP. Tucker, now in his 50s and living in another state, was not available for comment Wednesday.

At the time of the sexual abuse, Casey was serving as priest at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Kingsport, where he was pastor from 1976 through 1987.

He previously served between 1972 and 1976 as the priest at Notre Dame Catholic Church in Greeneville. There have been no allegations of abuse relating to his pastorate there.

Casey was formally removed from the priesthood in February 2013.

The lead prosecutor at the 2011 trial was Staubus, now 2nd Judicial District attorney general.

A key argument in earlier appeals filed by the Spiveys was that any crimes committed against Tucker did not come to light until after what Rick Spivey called a 32-year “pre-accusatorial” delay, which he said constituted a violation of Casey’s due process rights.

The Spiveys also questioned the time frame of the sex abuse Tucker said occurred in relation to the statute of limitations that applies to the crimes.

Casey was tried on the rape and molestation charges based on laws that were in effect between 1978 and 1980, when Tucker said the abuse occurred.

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