GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – A retired priest who served in the Green Bay Catholic Diocese has been sentenced to four months jail for flashing a teenage boy multiple times.
Richard Thomas, 78, appeared in a Brown County courtroom Friday morning for a sentencing hearing on two counts of Exposing Genitals/Pubic Area/Intimate Parts to a Child. He pleaded “no contest” to the charges in September. As part of a plea deal, two other charges were dismissed.
“I certainly am remorseful,” Thomas told Judge Timothy Hinkfuss. “I take full responsibility for what happened.”
In addition to the jail time, Thomas was also ordered to serve 36 months on probation and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He cannot have contact with minors.
Thomas told the court he “struggled with urges” and is “remorseful.” His attorney says Thomas is undergoing treatment.
The judge in the case called Thomas’ behavior “reprehensible.”
“This was a continuing event not just a one time affair, I mean this just went on and on and on and that’s, in my view, a problem, because it is once is bad enough but it continuing on makes it all the worse,” said Hon. Timothy Hinkfuss, Brown County Circuit Court Judge. “When someone’s walking to school, a minor’s walking to school, walking around the neighborhood, whatever it might be, to be exposed to this type of situation is really reprehensible.”
According to a criminal complaint, Thomas exposed himself to a 16-year-old boy on several dates in March 2016.
“We have an individual who engaged in routine planned premeditated behavior to expose himself to minor children,” said Assistant District Attorney Bryant Dorsey.
The teen told investigators while he walked to school, past Grellinger Hall in Allouez, he saw a naked man standing in one of the windows. Grellinger Hall is an independent living facility for retired priests.
The complaint says on March 16 the naked man called out “hey” to the teen after using a flashlight to get the boy’s attention.
The boy told managers of the facility.
On April 8, the administrator of the facility said he found Father Thomas in an unoccupied room – where the teen reported seeing him – dressed in a bathrobe and standing in front of a window. Thomas told him he was looking for a place to shower.
The complaint goes on to say Thomas was surprised to learn he was being charged with felony crimes, not misdemeanors, because it didn’t involve sexual contact with a person.
Thomas has two prior arrests for exposure, including an incident in 1993 in which Dorsey says “law enforcement found him running around naked with the intent to meet others.”
“He also needs to be held accountable and he needs to modify his behavior,” Dorsey said. “This has to stop. He’s too old to engage in this behavior.”
“You should be held to a higher standard, Mr. Thomas, just as judges should, lawyers should, and priests should because of your vocation,” said Judge Hinkfuss.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) released a statement reading, “No matter what lawmakers or church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, director of SNAP. “This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.”
The Green Bay Catholic Diocese released this statement following Thomas’ sentencing hearing:
The Diocese of Green Bay learned today of the sentence handed down in the case involving Father Richard Thomas, a diocesan priest.
As a diocese, we are saddened by this situation. We are also very grateful to the person who came forward to report the allegations and to civil authorities for their work on the case. Upon receiving the report of misconduct on the part of Father Thomas, the diocese notified civil authorities and their investigation began. Following the policies of the Diocesan Code of Pastoral Conduct, Father Thomas, a senior (retired) priest, is restricted from performing any public ministry.
The Diocese asks for prayers for all involved in this matter.
The Diocese remains committed to the protection of children and vulnerable adults. Its policies include permanently removing from ministry any clergy who have a substantiated allegation of abuse of a minor against them. In addition, the Diocese requires all clergy, employees, and volunteers in all parishes, schools and diocesan offices to complete mandatory background checks and training on keeping children safe. Since 2003, 35,284 background checks have been completed and 37,054 people have completed the “VIRTUS – Protecting God’s Children” program. (Data reported July 2016)
If you know of an incident of sexual abuse of a person who is now under the age of 18 by a priest, deacon, employee or volunteer, please immediately call the civil authorities and then the diocese.
If the person was abused as a minor but is now an adult, please contact:
Diocesan Assistance Coordinator
Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
P.O. Box 23825
Green Bay, WI 54305-3825
Telephone: 1-877-270-8174 or 920-272-8174
We always encourage you to report the incident to local civil authorities. More information is available on the Diocese’s website (www.gbdioc.org) under the title “Protecting Our Children.”