Jury convicts ex-priest in sodomy case

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Associated Press

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Updated Thursday, Apr 17 at 10:03 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A jury convicted a former Catholic priest Wednesday on three counts of sodomy for sex abuse that happened at a church parish in the 1970s.

James Schook, 66, was also convicted on one count of indecent or immoral practice with another. Schook, who did not testify at the trial, is suffering from terminal skin cancer and requested several delays of the trial after his indictment in 2011.

The jury threw out two sodomy charges, including one for an alleged encounter between Schook and witness Michael Stansbury, who testified that Schook abused him on one occasion.

The other witness, Richard Whitfield, testified that he and Schook carried on a yearslong sexual relationship that began when he was 13.

David Lambertus, Schook's attorney, challenged the witness accounts, and told the jury during his closing argument that the witnesses may not be able to accurately recall their ages at the time or the dates of the alleged abuses. He also suggested they may be coming forward now in order to seek money through a civil lawsuit.

The prosecutor, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Balliet, commended the witnesses and said they had nothing to gain by coming forward after four decades.

"They had to be very public, come into this court and tell strangers ... what happened," Balliet said during his closing argument. "That's a price to pay. That's tough to do."

Whitfield, 56, told the jury that he began having sexual encounters with Schook in the summer of 1971. He said most of their meetings were in Schook's room in the rectory at St. Rita Catholic Church in Louisville.

Stansbury said he had a sexual encounter with Schook at St. Thomas More Church in Louisville when he was 14 or 15.

Last year, a doctor at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center declared Schook to be very ill but competent and healthy enough to stand trial. Prosecutors argued that Schook was exaggerating his symptoms to avoid a criminal trial.

Schook was removed from the priesthood in 2010.

The jury will recommend a sentence for Schook on Thursday.

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