BRANDENBURG, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Meade County judge has sentenced a priest convicted in November of abusing a 10-year-old boy at a Catholic-run youth camp in 1973 to seven years in prison, following the jury's recommendation.
As the sentencing hearing began, Fr. Joseph Hemmerle addressed the court briefly, maintaining his innocence. At least a
The victim, Michael Norris, is now 53 years old. During his trial he testified that he had poison ivy, when he spent time at Tall Trees Camp in Meade County in the 1970s. He testified that Hemmerle offered to treat it. That's when Norris says he was abused.
During Thursday's proceedings, Norris told the court that Hemmerle "stole his innocence and spirituality." He says he now "struggles with being a Christian and believing in God."
Norris says when he first confronted Hemmerle about the abuse, he just wanted him to stay away from children. He says he went to police after Hemmerle refused.
Dozens of friends and family attended the sentencing in support of Hemmerle.
"Absolutely nothing that I have seen from this man would make me believe that he was capable of doing something he was accused of," said friend Jeffrey Frazier.
Norris finished by asking the judge to sentence Hemmerle to the maximum of 10 years.
"Mr. Hemmerle has done good things in his life," Norris said. "I don't doubt that. But he's also done bad things."
Hemmerle was taken into custody after the sentence was read.
We caught up with Norris for his reaction.
"He's going to jail, which is where he belongs," Norris said. "Unfortunately, I've been living with this for 43 years. It's good to see him finally pay for what he did to me. The sad thing is the Catholic church is still supporting this guy. He's a convicted pedophile yet he's still a Catholic priest."
The Archdiocese of Louisville put Hemmerle on leave when charges were first filed in 2014.
According to the prosecutor, Hemmerle is facing more charges in a separate case of sexual abuse. Right now, that case is scheduled to go to trial in April.
The Archdiocese of Louisville released the following statement after Hemmerle was sentenced:
Today, Father Joseph Hemmerle received a seven-year sentence following his conviction on one count of indecent or immoral practices with a minor.
No child should have to experience abuse of any kind. The Archdiocese is committed to reaching out to victims of sexual abuse and preventing the sexual abuse of minors through training and education. We continue to encourage victims of sexual abuse by Church employees to contact the police and our Victim Assistance Coordinator, Martine Siegel at 502/636-1044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At this time, Father Hemmerle remains a priest who has been suspended from ministry and has been directed not to present himself as a priest, pending the results of the criminal proceedings, which will continue with another trial this year. After the criminal process is complete, Father Hemmerle’s case will be given to the Holy See for a final determination of his status as a priest.
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