William Casey Post-Conviction Relief Denied By Panel
William Casey’s bid for post-conviction relief in connection with the former Catholic priest’s 2011 conviction on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of aggravated rape was denied by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville.
In a filing Wednesday, the appeals court affirmed the judgment of a post-conviction court denying Casey’s challenges to the convictions for actions committed in 1979 and 1980.
Casey’s bid for a new trial was denied in 2020 by Sullivan County Criminal Court Judge James M. Goodwin. Casey, a Greene County resident, was convicted in 2011 by a Sullivan County Criminal Court jury of the criminal sexual conduct and aggravated rape counts.
His lawyer, Francis “Frank” Santore Jr., filed the appeal with the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in 2020 after Goodwin’s ruling. The appeal asserts that Casey received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on direct appeal, and maintains Casey was entitled to relief “due to cumulative error.”
Casey, who is now 87, failed to establish he is entitled to post-conviction relief, the document filed Wednesday states.
“We affirm the judgment of the post conviction court,” presiding Judge John Everett Williams wrote on behalf of the appellate panel.
The sex abuse charges stemmed from conduct that occurred in 1979 and 1980, while victim Warren Tucker attended a school associated with St. Dominic Catholic Church in Kingsport. Casey was a priest at the church and Tucker was an altar boy.
Casey lived for many years in the Camp Creek community and for four years in the 1970s was parish priest at Notre Dame Catholic Church in Greeneville. He is serving a 40-year prison term imposed in 2011.
At the time of the sexual abuse, Casey was serving as priest at St. Dominic Catholic Church, where he was pastor from 1976 through 1987.
Casey served between 1972 and 1976 as the priest at Notre Dame Catholic Church in Greeneville. There have been no allegations of abuse relating to his pastorate there.
Casey was formally removed from the priesthood in February 2013.
Casey won’t be eligible for parole consideration until 2023 when he is 89, according to the state Department of Correction. Casey is serving time at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex.
TRIAL COURT AFFIRMED
Goodwin affirmed the findings of the trial court in his 2020 order. An opinion filed in 2018 by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals at Knoxville opened the door for the 2019 post-conviction relief hearing that Goodwin ruled on last year.
In 2017, Goodwin denied an earlier petition for post-conviction relief seeking a new trial for Casey. Santore then filed an appeal on the Sullivan County Criminal Court ruling that challenged Casey’s criminal sexual conduct and aggravated rape convictions. He alleged errors at trial, prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on earlier appeals. The appeals court granted him another hearing.
Casey still has a hold on him by authorities in Scott County, Virginia, in connection with allegations made by Tucker for offenses that allegedly were committed there.
Santore was retained in 2015. He said in 2020 that he will continue to pursue the appeals process on behalf of Casey should the Court of Criminal Appeals affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.
Tucker disclosed the abuse by Casey to Kingsport police in 2010 and made his allegations public after contacting the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests group, known by the acronym SNAP. Tucker, now in his 50s and living in another state, could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Santore did not immediately comment on Wednesday’s appellate court filing.
The lead prosecutor at Casey’s 2011 trial was Barry Staubus, now 2nd Judicial District attorney general.
A key argument in earlier appeals filed by then-defense lawyers Richard “Rick” Spivey and Matt Spivey was that any crimes committed against Tucker did not come to light until after what Rick Spivey called a 32-year “pre-accusatorial” delay, which he said constituted a violation of Casey’s due process rights. Santore, in later filings, made the same legal argument.
The Spiveys also questioned the time frame of the sex abuse Tucker said occurred in relation to the statute of limitations that applies to the crimes.
Casey was convicted of crimes based on laws that were on the books between 1978 and 1980, when Tucker said the abuse occurred. Tucker, with support from SNAP members, has remained steadfast in his contention that Casey sexually abused him while he was a priest.
Santore said in 2020 that a consistent pattern of abuse was never established. Staubus and the Sullivan County Criminal Court jury disagreed in 2011, as have judges in subsequent rulings.