Priest enters Alford plea in case dating to the 1970s

Record Staff Report

Father R. Joseph Hemmerle, a 74-year-old priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, entered an Alford plea May 17 on charges of sexual abuse.

An Alford plea means he does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the evidence against him “strongly indicates guilt,” according to the plea agreement.

The agreement comes with a two-year prison sentence and eight years of probation.

The sentence will be added to a seven-year sentence — to be served consecutively — handed down Feb. 9 in Meade County, Ky., Court in a separate case.

In that case, which went to trial in November of 2016, Father Hemmerle was found guilty by a Meade County jury on one count of immoral or indecent practices with a child.

The cases were brought by two men who accused Father Hemmerle of abusing them as children at Camp Tall Trees in Meade County in the 1970s. The priest served as  a director at the camp.

A statement issued by the Archdiocese of Louisville after the February sentencing said, “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.”

Father Hemmerle was suspended in 2014. His future as a priest will be determined by the Holy See once the criminal process is complete, the statement said.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 29.

According to the archdiocese, Father Hemmerle has served in the following parishes: St. Francis Church in St. Francis, Ky., Holy Cross Church in Holy Cross, Ky., the former St. Timothy Church (now part of St. Peter the Apostle Church); St. Barnabas Church; the former St. John Church; St. Raphael Church; St. Bartholomew Church; and the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky.

He also served at Trinity High School and St. Thomas-St. Vincent Home.

Victims of sexual abuse by church employees and those who have information about such abuse are encourgaed by the archdiocese to contact the police and the archdiocese’s victim assistance coordinator, Martine Siegel. Siegel can be reached  at 636-1044 or victimassistance@archlou.org.

To report abuse to civil authorities, call the child protection services or the local police in your county. Visit www.archlou.org/report for a list of these agencies by county.

The statewide child abuse hotline is available at 1-877-KYSAFE1 or 1-877-597-2331.

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