GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- A retired priest from the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay is headed to jail for repeatedly exposing himself to a minor.
Father Richard Thomas, 78, was sentenced to four months in jail and three years probation.
“I certainly am remorseful,” said Thomas in court. “I take full responsibility for what happened.”
In March, while living in an Allouez facility for retired priests, prosecutors say Thomas exposed himself multiple times to a 16-year-old boy walking to school. Thomas would bang on the windows and use a flashlight to get the boy's attention.
“I think most relevant to this is when he noted that he has these urges and fantasies that he has struggled with his whole life,” said Bryant Dorsey, an assistant district attorney for Brown County.
The state revealed in court that Thomas was arrested in 1990 for exposing himself, but was never convicted. Thomas was arrested again for exposure in 1993.
“Law enforcement found him running around naked with the intent to meet others,” said Dorsey.
The defense unsuccessfully argued against jail time for Thomas. The defense says Thomas is being treated for depression and anxiety and has been going to weekly counseling sessions.
“There are times when this treatment gets, the way I put it is pretty intense, but to me that's a good thing, because it's helping me to be the person I want to be, not to be the person that I was,” said Thomas.
Thomas, who retired from priesthood in 2010, has been on administrative leave from the diocese since his arrest.
The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay issued the following statement:
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)