GREEN BAY — On Friday, Oct. 28, in a Brown County courtroom, Fr. Richard Thomas, a retired priest of the Green Bay Diocese, received sentencing for two felony counts of sexual misconduct.
Brown County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Hinkfuss ordered Fr. Thomas, 79, to serve 120 days in the Brown County Jail, 36 months of probation, registration as a sex offender for life, to undergo a psychological evaluation, no contact with the juvenile victim, no contact with minors and sex offender treatment, which Fr. Thomas has already started. Provisions of the Huber Law will allow Fr. Thomas to leave jail for treatment. He will report to jail on Nov. 29.
Joshua Koch, attorney for Fr. Thomas, argued for no jail time. He cited Fr. Thomas’ age, health, cooperation, remorse and proactivity in seeking treatment in support of no jail sentence.
Fr. Thomas also spoke at the sentencing. He said that he “sought treatment immediately, before I was formerly charged.” He added that treatment is “a very long process” and described it as “very intense that’s helping me.”
Hinkfuss, when announcing the sentence, said that Fr. Thomas is “held to a higher standard because of his vocation.”
On Sept. 2, Hinkfuss found Fr. Thomas guilty after the priest pleaded “no contest” to the first two felony counts of exposing himself. As part of a plea agreement, two other counts of exposing himself to a 16-year-old child were dismissed. At a May 22 hearing, Fr. Thomas had pleaded not guilty on all charges.
Since the March incidents took place at Grellinger Hall, the diocesan priest retirement facility in Allouez, Fr. Thomas has been restricted from performing any public ministry.
Fr. Thomas retired and was granted senior priest status on Aug. 28, 2007.
A diocesan statement released on Oct. 28 read:
“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 Fr. Thomas, the diocese notified civil authorities and their investigation began. Following the policies of the Diocesan Code of Pastor Conduct, Fr. Thomas, a senior (retired) priest, is restricted from performing any public ministry.
“The diocese asks for prayers for all involved in this matter.”