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.
R. Joseph Hemmerle was facing allegations of abuse from a second 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 sentenced in February to seven years imprisonment.
Prosecutors say Hemmerle’s plea deal for sexual abuse and wanton endangerment calls for an additional two years imprisonment and eight years of probation. The deal was reached Wednesday.
Michael Norris, the victim in the first case, said he was “happy” to hear of the plea deal and that he wouldn’t have to testify in another trial. The second accuser, a man who attended the camp in the late 1970s, was not identified.
Norris told a jury in November that when he was 10 years old, Hemmerle stood him on a stool with no clothes and sexually abused him in the priest’s personal cabin. Norris testified he went to him for poison ivy treatment.
Hemmerle, 74, also testified at that trial, saying that he would sometimes apply calamine lotion to the genitals of child campers, with their permission, but he denied abusing anyone.
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 entered an Alford plea Wednesday, which means he didn’t admit guilt, but acknowledged that prosecutors could win a conviction in court.
Hemmerle led the summer camp, about an hour from Louisville, from 1970 to 2001 and also taught at Louisville Trinity High School from 1967 to 2001.
He has been on administrative leave since 2014. An Archdiocese of Louisville spokeswoman said she could not comment until she received information on the plea agreement.