Category Archives: Order of the Carmelites

Ex-priest gets life for sex with boy

Ex-priest gets life for sex with boy

Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 4:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 5:45 p.m.

SARASOTA – A Catholic priest was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for repeatedly having sex with a teenage boy.

William C. Wert, now 56, had recurring sexual interactions with a 14-year-old Nokomis boy after the man found him on a chat website for teenagers. The messages turned explicit, later becoming key pieces of evidence for the prosecution.

“I think the sentence is appropriate considering the predatory behavior,” said Assistant State Attorney Dawn Buff, who prosecuted the case before Circuit Court Judge Frederick Mercurio.

In March, a jury found him guilty on eight counts of sexual offenses against a child; two other counts were dropped and the jury found him not guilty on one count. Wert has been in jail without bail since his arrest in February 2011.

Wert lived in a Carmelite Catholic Order property in Venice, and although his affiliation with the church was kept from jurors, the judge was aware during sentencing.

Buff said she thought the family of the victim was relieved to see the case resolved, although perhaps more angry at the church than Wert. The family of the victim sued the Order of the Carmelites, claiming the Catholic order was aware of Wert’s past conviction for approaching and touching a 14-year-old boy on the inner thigh. The church still allowed him to move from Washington, D.C., to the Carmelites’ home in Venice.

The church agreed to pay the family $1.75 million before the case went to trial.

During the sentencing hearing, Buff reminded the judge of Wert’s past conviction, saying that although the church removed him from having contact with children at the church, he used a computer to continue looking for sex with minors.

“He went on a website for gay teens,” Buff said. “He went trolling specifically to look for a teen.”

In the trial, prosecutors and detectives described how Wert and the teenager met in an online chat room designed for teenagers, with Wert initially lying about his age. They exchanged phone numbers, which led to sexual encounters at various locations — including Wert’s Venice home, a vacant house, a wooded area and a motel room — from September 2010 to January 2011.

Much of the prosecution relied on testimony from the victim, corroborated by cellular text messages, Facebook messages and text conversations retrieved from Skype, the online video chat service.

The Diocese of Venice has previously said Wert is not affiliated with the diocese and did not perform public ministry.