LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A pedophile priest convicted of crimes committed decades ago was sentenced to 15 years Thursday, but Father James Schook is still not behind bars.
Like so many things in this case, the reason for that all goes back to Father Schook's health. It was a major issue in the delays getting him to trial, it came up as his attorneys argued for leniency during the sentencing phase Thursday and it will allow him to remain out of jail for the next six weeks even though he's been convicted.
Schook, now convicted of molesting a boy back in the 1970s, walked into court Thursday not with sheriff's deputies in handcuffs, but in street clothes, using the walker that helps him get around.
His attorney argued jurors should take the former priest's health into account when handing down their sentence.
"Here's the prescription list and here are the doctor appointments," said David Lambertus.
Lambertus said Schook has terminal skin cancer, coronary artery disease and COPD.
"We're talking about time, time of a person's life," he told the jury.
"I'm sorry he's got cancer but he didn't have cancer when he was molesting people back then in the 70s," said Schook accuser Michael Stansbury, who was in court for Schook's sentencing phase.
The sentence of 15 years, means -- given Schook's diagnosis -- he will in all likelihood die in prison when he finally arrives there. Judge Mitch Perry sent him home Thursday after the jury read its verdict.
"It's May the 30th, 2014 at 9 a.m.," said Perry in court. "In the interim, I'm going to maintain your status of home incarceration but the only releases I will permit are verified medical releases."
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Balliet explained, "there are probably a lot of reasons that go into why it would be difficult for a jail to deal with him just in terms of medications and observations and things of that nature."
That explanation doesn't sit well with Mike Diebold, who works with SNAP, a group that supports people abused by priests.
"There's no change in Schook's life situation," Diebold said. "He goes from one step to the next step and never is put away. That's what it looks like and I know he's going to serve some time."
Diebold said he still doesn't see enough change in the Church to prevent abuse from happening, calling on the Pope to remove the bishops who oversaw repeat abusers. Still, on Holy Week, he's looking for more: "Prayers for all people involved, for Jim as he's going to spend some jail time, and also for these victims who are still suffering."
The Archdiocese released a statement, which said it acknowledged and deeply regretted the painful stories shared by the victims during the Schook trial. The statement continued, "The Archdiocese is committed to reaching out to victims of sexual abuse by clergy or Church employees."
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