published Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Former priest William Casey appeals abuse conviction

KNOXVILLE — A former Catholic priest convicted of molesting an altar boy is asking the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals to overturn the conviction, claiming the victim waited too long to report the crime.

William Casey was sentenced to 35-40 years in prison in 2011 after a jury found him guilty of criminal sexual misconduct and aggravated rape.

Warren Tucker has said Casey abused him for five years, beginning in 1975 when he was a fifth-grader and an altar boy at St. Dominic's Catholic Church in Kingsport. The AP does not usually identify victims of sexual abuse, but Tucker went public with his claims.

On Tuesday, Casey's attorneys told the Appeals Court that the 30-plus-year delay in reporting the abuse to authorities was a violation of Casey's constitutional due process guarantees. They claimed the delay made it difficult for Casey to mount a defense because potential witnesses are dead.

Assistant Attorney General John Bledsoe has countered that those potential witnesses could not have testified that Casey and Tucker never were alone together. Bledsoe also argued that Casey's own statements corroborate Tucker's testimony.

And he said there was good reason for the delay. Tucker felt shame, guilt and confusion. He thought the abuse was his fault and that no one would believe him. He also believed that a priest represented God on Earth and had to be obeyed.

Tucker has said most of the abuse occurred in Sullivan County, but he also has accused Casey of abusing him in Greene County, McDowell County, N.C., and Scott County, Va. Casey pleaded guilty in North Carolina and was given a three-year suspended sentence. He has been charged in Scott County, Va., but prosecutors there say they are watching how the appeals play out in Tennessee.

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