A retired East Tennessee priest accused of repeated sexual abuse of a child decades ago in Tennessee and once in North Carolina pleaded guilty Wednesday to the charge in McDowell County, North Carolina.
The victim, Warren Tucker, came forward with the allegation in April.
"'I'm sorry' rings hollow for me right now," said Tucker outside of the McDowell County Courthouse in Marion.
In return for his guilty plea to a charge of crimes against nature Wednesday, Casey was sentenced to three years in prison, but that sentence was suspended to 24 months of supervised probation. Tucker said he's not happy with the sentence.
"It's a bittersweet victory for me, my family that Mr. Casey can walk freely as a convicted felon," said Tucker.
Father Bill Casey has already been suspended from any priestly activities for life, according to the Knoxville Diocese, after admitting to sexually abusing a young parishioner from 1975 to 1980.
Bishop Richard F. Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
As you know, on April 14 Mr. Warren Tucker informed us that during the 1970s he had been sexually abused by William Casey, who at the time was a priest of the Diocese of Nashville serving in East Tennessee.
The following day, Mr. Casey told me during a private meeting that there was "credibility" to the accusations. I immediately and permanently removed his priestly faculties, in keeping with the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People* and our own policy on sexual misconduct. He will never again serve as a priest of this diocese or any diocese in the world.
Today we learned that Mr. Casey pleaded guilty in McDowell County, N.C., to charges of crimes against nature. In return for his plea, he was sentenced to three years in prison, and the sentence was suspended to 24 months of supervised probation. We have observed and fully cooperated with the judicial process.
When Mr. Tucker came to us this spring, I assured him of my prayers and those of the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Knoxville. I also apologized to him and reiterated my firm belief that the sexual abuse of minors by anyone is a travesty of the greatest magnitude and an abomination before God. I wish to restate my apology and my commitment to continued prayers for Mr. Tucker and his family. I applaud him and other victims of sexual abuse for their bravery in coming forward to seek healing and justice. I strongly encourage all victims of abuse to do the same.