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Former priest John Feeney released from prison

November 12, 2011

The following story aired on ABC WBAY in Green Bay on November 11, 2011

By Sara Kronenburg

A former Northeast Wisconsin priest convicted of sexually abusing young boys is released from prison.

The Department of Corrections says 84-year-old John Patrick Feeney was released from prison November 1st, after serving less than eight years of a 15-year sentence for sexually assaulting Troy and Todd Merryfield.

Feeney was convicted back in 2004 of those sexual assaults back in the 1970s while he was working as a priest in Freedom for the Green Bay Catholic Diocese.

This week, Feeney was moved to a halfway house in Appleton.

One of his accusers, Todd Merryfield, says he’s disappointed in the release, even though it was mandatory based on Feeney’s sentence.

“Our disappointment was the day of sentencing and knowing what he’d done to us and to all his other victims, you know. Unfortunately he had to be sentenced under the sentencing guidelines from back in the 70s, and this is ultimately what he got.”

Merryfield and his brother Troy filed a civil suit against the Green Bay diocese over abuse claims, and their attorney expects to go to trial next year.

“We are truly looking for the diocese to recognize their responsibility in this whole scenario and to do the right thing,” Todd Merryfield said.

The diocese says it has no new comment on the case, and that Feeney was barred from public ministry in 1986 and dismissed by the Vatican in 2005.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, says even though Feeney’s out of prison, it’s glad his conviction was so public.

“Most priests are not listed — the public doesn’t know where they live and who they are, so they’re free to go on to a second career where they can possibly interact with children or vulnerable adults,” John Pilmaier of SNAP said.

Feeney will be under extended supervision until 2019.


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