Though the trial of Rev. James Schook — a Louisville priest charged with sexually abusing two underage boys in the ’70s — was to begin last month, it now looks like it will be delayed until next year, if it’s even tried at all.
While the reason for the postponement in hearings until Dec. 17 was initially a scheduling conflict with another case being prosecuted by Jefferson County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney John Balliet, The Courier-Journal subsequently found that the delay was due to Schook suffering from stage IV melamona. With Schook currently undergoing chemotherapy, Balliet says that “now would not be a good time for him to stand trial.”
Balliet tells LEO that Schook’s health will be evaluated at the December hearing, at which time they will determine whether the trial will go forward.
“If in fact he appears to be healthier, in better shape, we’d probably set a trial date that day for sometime down the road in 2013,” Balliet says.
Balliet says he has only spoken to one of the alleged victims about the delay in the trial.
“He wasn’t upset when he and I talked about it. In fact, I think he felt like he understood,” Balliet tells LEO. “But then the more he talked about it, the more he thought about it, the more he talked to people who have been friends of his and supporters of his, I think he felt less good about it. That’s my reading on it.”
The other alleged victim, Michael Stansbury, is infuriated by yet another delay in the trial, noting that he went to the authorities with his allegations over four years ago.
“(Balliet) can’t be talking about me,” Stansbury tells LEO. “I am not pleased about it at all. I’m extremely upset, I’m extremely disappointed. And it’s very depressing to know that he could get off without standing trial or serving a day in jail.
“I presented them with this almost four years ago, and that’s after someone else had accused him of sexual misconduct. Jerry Sandusky is already being tried within a year of his allegations coming out, and this has been going on over four years.”
Stansbury says that each delay in the trial has taken a personal toll on him.
“There’s been a huge time lapse, and every time you are preparing to go to court, or preparing to make a statement, it makes a huge impact on your life, because you’ve got to go back and relive through those events,” Stansbury says. “And that’s extremely draining and difficult to do.”
While Balliet did not directly name SNAP — the Louisville-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — in his statement to LEO, Stansbury says that he has been grateful for their support.
“I really appreciate the support I’ve gotten from the SNAP group, and I wish there were more people that became involved with it so this doesn’t continue to happen throughout the Catholic society,” Stansbury says. “And that’s my hope. I’m just extremely disappointed at the way this has been handled.”
Jeff Koenig of SNAP tells LEO that their organization is dismayed by how long it is taking to try Schook.
“The people of the commonwealth of Kentucky deserve as much of a right to a fair trial by jury as the defendant does, and to not bring this to trial before a jury, regardless of his medical condition, is a travesty,” says Koenig. “I’ve known of mafia bosses and different people going to trial when they were dying of cancer, and I think at least for the sake of the victims that brought these charges and taxpayers like myself, the people of the commonwealth all deserve as much of a fair trial as the defendant does. And to not bring it at all would be a miscarriage of justice. Let a jury of 12 of his peers decide.”
Koenig tells LEO that he is also offended by the possible implication by Balliet that SNAP is egging on discontent among at least one victim in the delay of the trial.
“That is so not the case,” says Koenig. “We are not talking anybody into anything at SNAP. This is how these two men feel. That makes me very angry, that he would imply that.”
(For more on SNAP and sexual abuse by priests in Louisville and Kentucky, check out Jonathan Meador’s LEO cover story from last year.)