Catholic priest reaches plea deal on sex abuse

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Catholic priest has reached a plea agreement on sexual abuse charges that occurred at a summer camp that he ran for decades in Kentucky.

The Rev. R. Joseph Hemmerle was facing allegations of abuse from a person who said Hemmerle abused him at Camp Tall Trees in Meade County. Hemmerle was also convicted in November of abusing a boy who attended the camp in the 1970s, and was sentenced in February to seven years in prison.

Prosecutors say Hemmerle’s plea deal for sexual abuse and wanton endangerment calls for an additional two years’ imprisonment and eight years of probation.


Michael Norris, the victim in the first case, said he was glad to hear of the plea deal and that he would not have to testify in another trial. The second accuser, a man who attended the camp in the late 1970s, was not identified.

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Norris told a jury in November that when he was 10 years old, Hemmerle stood him naked on a stool and sexually abused him in the priest’s personal cabin. Norris testified that he went to him for poison ivy treatment.

Hemmerle, 74, also testified at that trial, saying he would sometimes apply calamine lotion to the genitals of campers, with their permission, but he denied any abuse.

Norris said the plea agreement in the second case helps brings closure, but said he wants an apology from church officials. He said he came forward with the first case against Hemmerle because he wanted to protect children who the priest might come in contact with.

‘‘Maybe all those people who say they’re praying for Hemmerle will back off now,’’ he said after learning of the plea agreement. ‘‘Why don’t they pray for me?’’


Hemmerle has been on administrative leave since 2014.

Associated Press