Feeney Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison

By Dan Wilson
April 30, 2004

APPLETON — John Patrick Feeney, 77, a former Fox Valley Catholic priest who abused two brothers 26 years ago, was sentenced today to 15 years in prison.

"I want to structure a sentence that will bring us to the end of your life," said Outagamie County Circuit Judge Dennis Luebke, noting that Feeney would be under the old sentencing code that mandates release after two-thirds of the sentence. In this case, that would be 10 years.

Luebke pronounced the sentence after hearing emotional appeals from the victims and their mother.

Feeney, of Los Angeles, was sentenced on sexual assault charges stemming from Feeney's days as a priest at a Freedom church.

He faced a maximum of 60 years in prison after being convicted in February on three counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of attempted sexual assault of a child for incidents that happened 26 years ago when he was the parish priest at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Freedom.

"I would like Mr. Feeney to spend the rest of his years in prison," said Sharon Merryfield, mother of Todd and Troy Merryfield, who were abused by Feeney. "Our whole family has suffered tremendously from what he did. I don't think he should ever be allowed to walk the streets again."

In 1978, Feeney assaulted brothers Todd and Troy Merryfield, then 12 and 14, in their bedrooms while their parents were downstairs in the living room, in the belief Feeney was helping them with their bedtime prayers.

"This so-called priest is a sexual predator" who literally stole the childhoods of the boys in the communities where he served, Todd Merryfield said.

Troy Merryfield said he has had to live with Feeney's actions for the past 26 years.

Addressing Luebke, he said, "After you give your sentence, my Lord will give his."

In addition to hearing from the Merryfields, Luebke also reviewed more than 20 letters filed with the court, some seeking leniency and others asking for a harsh sentence.

Feeney was charged under a quirk in the law that avoided the statute of limitations. The law states that if a person leaves the state, the six-year statute of limitations clock stops ticking. Feeney left the state in 1983.

However, there were other incidents that were covered by the statute of limitations that could not be charged.

Special prosecutor Vince Biskupic had 10 other alleged victims of Feeney's on his witness list for the trial. They were never called to testify.

Biskupic has maintained that those 10 represent only a fraction of Feeney's alleged victims.

Feeney is also among the priests named in a suit against the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

The suit claims Feeney molested a 15-year-old boy in 1967 while he was visiting relatives in that state.

The suit alleges Feeney was under supervision by the Los Angeles Archdiocese during those visits. That boy, now 51, was listed among Biskupic's 10 "other acts" witnesses.

A special report in The Post-Crescent, published in May 2002 detailed how Feeney was moved 14 times in 14 years during his stint with the Green Bay Diocese. In all, he served at 18 parishes in the diocese between his June 1952 ordination and before moving to California in 1983.


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