published Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Ex-priest seeks new trial after rape verdict

By Natalie Neysa Alund

Knoxville News Sentinel

A former East Tennessee Roman Catholic priest convicted of raping an altar boy nearly three decades ago wants a new trial.

William Casey, sentenced last month to nearly 40 years in prison, claims evidence presented at his July trial was insufficient to convict him of aggravated rape and criminal sexual misconduct, according to a motion for a new trial filed in Sullivan County Circuit Court. The motion cited various statute of limitation violations.

Casey served at Chattanooga's Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church from 1969 to 1972, according to newspaper archives.

A jury determined in July that Casey, 77, of Greeneville, Tenn., raped Warren Tucker when Tucker was 13 and 14 and an altar boy at St. Dominic's Catholic Church in Kingsport, Tenn., when Casey was the senior priest there in the 1970s.

Most of the alleged offenses occurred in Sullivan County, but others took place in Greene County; McDowell County, N.C.; and Scott County, Va.

Casey earlier had pleaded guilty to similar charges in North Carolina and faces prosecution on sex charges in Virginia. Elsewhere in Tennessee, he had served as a priest in Knoxville, Greeneville and Rogersville.

According to the 20-page motion filed last week by Casey's attorney, Richard Spivey, the court also erred by refusing to allow the defense to cross-examine Tucker on multiple occasions.

In one case, the motion reads, the court limited the defense counsel's ability to question him on the statute of limitations and also refused to instruct the jury on the statute of limitations.

Spivey also claimed the court should have granted a request for a change of venue due to high publicity about his client's case.

"Of the 36 jurors initially impaneled, 24 had prior knowledge of the case through press coverage," Spivey wrote in the motion. "And of those 24, 12 jurors either formed an opinion or knew too much to serve."

Tucker had testified that he felt powerless to resist a man he believed to be "representative of God on earth." He said he had considered Casey a father figure.

Tucker, who now lives in Jeffersonville, Ind., said he went public with the allegations in hopes his case encourages others to speak out if they've been abused by priests or clergy members.

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