William Casey, 78.
BLOUNTVILLE — A judge has refused to overturn a former Kingsport priest's July 2011 convictions for raping an altar boy three decades ago.
William Casey, 78, 740 Shakerag Road, Greeneville, was sentenced in November to 15 to 20 years for first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two concurrent 20-year terms on two aggravated rape counts. His convictions stemmed from allegations he sexually abused a young altar boy shortly after becoming priest of St. Dominic Catholic Church in Kingsport in the 1970s.
During the trial, the victim, Warren Tucker, now 46, testified Casey raped him twice — once when he was 13 and once when he was 14 — and performed oral sex on him in his mother’s trailer shortly before his 15th birthday, with Tucker saying he “felt obligated” to reciprocate the act. He described feeling powerless to resist a man he believed to be “representative of God on Earth.”
At the sentencing, Tucker testified Casey committed more than 50 sexual acts against him when he was between 10 and 16 years of age, with most of the alleged offenses occurring in Sullivan County, but others also allegedly taking place in Greene County, McDowell County, N.C., and Scott County, Va.
Casey sought a “new trial, arrest of judgment or judgment of acquittal” in a 20-page, 90-point motion filed Dec. 22, 2011. Those points were previously outlined in the Times-News on March 6. Sullivan County Criminal Court Judge Robert Montgomery denied the motion at the end of a brief hearing Friday afternoon.
At trial, Casey was represented by attorneys Rick Spivey and Matthew Spivey. Rick Spivey was not present for Friday's hearing, as he had advised the judge Friday morning that he had to return to Rogersville before 1 p.m.
At the start of the hearing, Montgomery noted that he had approved the jury's verdict as the 13th juror. Flipping through the pages of the motion, he remarked that all the points appeared to concern issues he had previously ruled on during pretrial hearings or the trial itself. He did, however, acknowledge the possibility that some of the points might concern times during the trial when no objection was raised.
Only a few of the motion's 90 points were specifically addressed during the hearing. Several that were addressed involved Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus' word choices in closing arguments at trial.
Spivey objected to Staubus' use of the word "uncontroverted" in reference to the testimony of the state's witnesses, citing that it implied the burden of proof had shifted to the defense. The judge responded that the courts have considered that issue before, and the word is not believed to shift the burden of proof.
Spivey contended Staubus also tried to shift the burden of proof with the following, "...and you can't speculate about evidence that never was presented because the evidence was that these things happened." The judge responded that he believed he had given the jury a special instruction with regard to that remark.
Spivey also argued Staubus had "vouched" for two of the state's witnesses, Father David Boettner and Deacon Sean Smith, when he said, “They testified to what this defendant said which happens to be the truth.” The judge reviewed the entire paragraph the sentence was contained in, and found that the sentence represented the state's contention.
Spivey also objected to Staubus' characterization of Casey's charges as follows: "That's what he's being charged with, and that's what he's being convicted of."
"Our objection was that they're arguing he's already been convicted of these charges before it's even gone to the jury," said Spivey. He contended this point was important because Casey had in fact already been convicted of similar charges in McDowell County, N.C.
Staubus noted that he never brought the N.C. conviction up before the jury, and Spivey agreed he wasn't suggesting that was the case. Staubus also noted he believed there was "nothing improper" about his closing argument.
The judge concluded that the issue did not rise to, "what I would consider a plain and/or reversible error" that would warrant granting a motion for new trial.
Spivey said the "main point" of their motion is that, "the courtroom should have looked just like it does today other than Mr. Casey should have had on a suit, the jury box should have been empty and we should never have had a jury trial."
He again contended that the delay in bringing the case to trial caused undue prejudice to his client. He argued that the, "trial itself and the fact he had to stand trial violated fundamental fairness and the concept of substantial justice."
Spivey also objected to the court's use of a lottery to select the two alternate jurors to be excused before deliberations began. Although the judge noted this process could have worked to Casey's benefit, Spivey said it's the defense's position that it did not.
"Based on all I've said so far, I don't find a basis to grant your motion for new trial or for judgment of acquittal," Montgomery concluded.
Spivey also asked the judge to reconsider the issue of Casey's bond, as revocation would not have been mandatory at the time the offenses were committed.
The judge again declined to grant Casey an appeal bond, citing that his decision to revoke bond had been based upon the nature of the charges and length of sentence in addition to consideration of the fact that under current law he would not be eligible for bond.
Afterward, Spivey called the hearing "just a necessary step" in the appeals process.
Casey had been sentenced to probation for a conviction out of McDowell County, N.C. He also has pending charges in Scott County, Va. Tucker is cited as the victim in both of those cases as well.