BY KEN LITTLE
BLOUNTVILLE -- Warren Tucker suffered in silence for nearly 30 years before he went to police with details of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priest William Casey.
The tables were finally turned Wednesday when Casey, 77, was sentenced to serve a prison term of 35 to 40 years by Sullivan County Criminal Court Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr., on convictions of first-degree criminal misconduct and two counts of aggravated rape.
He could be eligible for parole consideration after about 10-1/2 years.
Tucker first went public with the allegations against Casey in April 2010 after speaking with authorities at the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville.
According to trial testimony by diocesan officials, Casey told Knoxville Bishop Richard F. Stika very soon afterward that Tucker's allegations had "credibility."
Casey, a longtime resident of the Camp Creek community of Greene County, was immediately removed from priestly duties by Bishop Stika, and has been permanently suspended from the ministry.
TUCKER: 'A VERY GOOD CONCLUSION'
Tucker, 46, said that several delays in Casey's sentencing over the last several months had been frustrating, but that he was satisfied the case came to a "very good conclusion."
There was no trace of sympathy for the man Tucker once regarded as a father figure.
"We were looking for a sentence that would put him away for the rest of his life," Tucker said.
"At 77 years old, it is effectively a life sentence, and it is appropriate. I shed no tears for him."
Tucker said he looks forward to returning to his home in Indiana, near Louisville, Ky., but went on to say that he will not forget other victims of sexual abuse.
"My thoughts right now turn to other victims," he said.
"The sadness is that we can't get them all justice. The reason I came out publicly is that I want other people to know it can happen."
Casey, a former pastor of Notre Dame Catholic Church in Greeneville, was for decades a respected and popular member of the Greeneville/Greene County community.
He was convicted July 14 by a Sullivan County jury of one count of first-degree criminal sexual misconduct and two counts of aggravated rape.
Appearing gaunt in a gray-and-white-striped jail uniform, Casey listened attentively to Wednesday's proceedings, but showed no hint of emotion when sentenced.
JUDGE: MANY FACTORS IN SENTENCE
Montgomery said he had many factors to consider in fashioning an appropriate sentence, including the serious nature of the crimes.
"It involved, frankly, unspeakable types of acts that people just don't talk about in polite company," the judge said.
After pleas for leniency by defense lawyer Rick Spivey, and for imposition of a maximum 50-year sentence by prosecuting District Attorney General Barry Staubus, Judge Montgomery sentenced Casey to 15 to 20 years on the first count, aggravated first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Casey received 20 years each on the second and third counts of aggravated rape.
He will serve the first and second counts consecutively, which means an effective sentence of 35 to 40 years, with recommendation of parole consideration after serving 30 percent of the sentence.
Casey will serve the sentences for the aggravated rape convictions concurrently, i.e., at the same time.
BACKGROUND OF CASE
Tucker was 13 and 14 years old and an altar boy at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Kingsport when the crimes occurred between 1978 and 1980.
At the time, Casey was the priest in charge of St. Dominic Parish.
Tucker moved to Kentucky to live with his father when he was 15, but in the five-year period before that, Tucker lived with his mother in Kingsport.
Tucker testified Wednesday during the sentencing hearing that the sexual abuse by Casey began when he was 10-1/2 years old and continued until he was 15.
Casey was prosecuted for three specific incidents, but Tucker testified that Casey sexually abused him more than 50 times.
According to his testimony, most of the instances were in Kingsport, but some of the acts occurred at Casey's Camp Creek cabin, and others occurred in North Carolina and in Virginia, when Casey took Tucker on trips approved by his mother.
The effects on Tucker were devastating, he told Staubus.
"The immediate effects were numbing, emotionally-void feelings of shame, guilt, fear," Tucker said.
Later, Tucker said, he felt "despairing pain ... so deep it will double you over and cause you to grit your teeth until they chip and break."
Tucker said the sex abuse affected his personal life in many ways.
"It disturbed my understanding of love. It disturbed my understanding of how to be loved," he said.
CASEY WILL APPEAL
Casey is appealing his conviction. A motions hearing for a new trial will be held March 5.
Spivey reminded Montgomery of the good works Casey had done during a 50-year career as a priest, and asked Tucker how many years it took to come forward with the allegations of sex abuse.
"You cannot base a man's whole life on one incident," Spivey said. "You have to look at the whole life."
Tucker said it took 28 years before he detailed the sex abuse to police.
Staubus reminded the judge that Casey used his position of power in the community to commit "multiple acts" against Tucker, and was able to live nearly 30 years without having to answer for them.
"He not only abused the private trust, he abused the public trust," Staubus said. "He was able to maintain the facade of a respectable cleric when he was a pedophile."
As a result, Tucker "suffered years of residual effects," Staubus said.
Laws that existed before 1982 and those in effect now both call for lengthy prison terms for sexual abuse of minors, Montgomery said.
"If I'm around, I will oppose that parole," Staubus said.
Staubus said Casey's sentence fits his crimes.
"We wanted to hold Mr. Casey accountable, and we've done that," he said.
CHARGES IN VIRGINIA, N.C.
Casey is scheduled to go on trial in Scott County, Va., in connection with additional sex abuse charges involving Tucker.
He pleaded not guilty at an August 2010 arraignment on the Virginia case to charges of forcible sodomy and indecent liberties with a child.
The alleged crime occurred in 1978.
Casey was convicted in July 2010 of "crimes against nature" in McDowell County, N.C. Tucker was the victim of the abuse.
Casey received a three-year suspended prison sentence in that case, along with two years of supervised probation.