A 20-year-old former youth pastor in Haiku, Hawaii, was convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault after a relationship with a 13/14 year old girl in his youth group. I have copied the entire news article below, but there were a couple things in this article that I thought were of particular concern.
First, the offender said he was “in love” with a 13 year old girl. After getting caught with her in 2006, he was caught with her a second time almost a year later. Since he was seriously reprimanded the first time, there was no reasonable explanation for the continued offense. The first time perhaps it could be explained as passion gone wrong since the offender was so young. But a repeated incident nearly a year later indicates a deliberation and lack of repentance that cannot be denied. This is why the court found him guilty and was not lenient.
I think it is most scary that at the time of his first offense, he climbed through the girl’s bedroom window and told her he wanted to share a religious experience with her. This is clearly a bigger issue than teenage lust gone astray. Using the excuse of a “religious experience” is a classic line used by clergy pedophiles and sexual predators. The public defender’s statement that “I would put this case in the category of bad judgment and lust,” is a very serious misstatement and indicates a gross lack of understanding.
The larger issue that makes me ask questions though is how the church did not handle the situation the first time it happened. I understand they probably didn’t want to ruin the young man with criminal charges when, maybe, it was a fairly normal teenage romance though he was technically an adult and the girl was a very young teen at just 13. But why was he still going to church with the girl? Why was there any continued contact at all between them?
The fact that the young man continued to first claim he was in love, then it was lust that got out of hand, and that the devil made him do it, essentially, should give anyone significant pause. I applaud the court for not granting leniency because there is certainly enough indication here that this young man has a more serious problem than just teenage romance gone bad. This is the way clergy sex abusers get there start – right here. It has to be dealt with strongly. Even more, this young man needs long-term professional help and accountability. The chances of this not happening again after he gets out of jail are not very high. He will just be 5 years older, probably more street-wise thanks to his jail experience, and unchanged.
My thanks to Maui News for this story.
WAILUKU – A 20-year-old former youth pastor, who said in a letter that the devil led him astray, was sentenced to five years in prison for having sexual relations with a minor even after he was repeatedly told not to see the girl.
Second Circuit Judge Joel August also ordered Kaipo Cabanting of Haiku not to have contact with the minor, with whom he developed a relationship from attending church. August said he takes Cabanting’s religious beliefs seriously but the explanation Cabanting gave in a letter blaming the devil is “not completely satisfactory to the court.” August said that people make conscious decisions in committing criminal acts.Cabanting was sentenced on two reduced counts of second-degree sex assault, with additional prison terms for third-degree sex assault to run at the same time. The charges were for incidents in 2006 and 2007, when the victim was 13 and 14.The age for a minor to consent to sexual activity in Hawaii is 16.August said Cabanting could have cut off his relationship with the minor after being told to do so by police, family and friends after the first sexual encounter. If he had, the judge said he could consider probation and up to a year in jail.
But the second sexual contact nearly a year later called for prison time.
August sentenced Cabanting as a young adult offender, allowing a shorter prison term for the Class B felony sexual assault.
Cabanting faced at 10-year prison term for the conviction of second degree sexual assault, although he also could have been granted probation. August said probation would not be appropriate although Cabanting did not have a prior record.
What is “bothersome to the court” is the repeat sexual assault, August said.
He wondered what was done to prevent Cabanting from contacting the girl again.
All parties present at court including prosecutors, the family of the victim and Cabanting said they did their best to monitor him.
According to court records Cabanting’s first encounter with the victim was on March 28-29, 2006. He later had another encounter with the victim on Feb. 14, 2007.
Cabanting repeatedly apologized in court and also turned to apologize to the victim’s family.
“I’m terribly, terribly, sorry for what has happened. . . . I was a kid,” he told the family.
He said he is not a pedophile.
“I made a mistake. I fell in love with your daughter,” Cabanting said.
He then addressed August, saying he got caught up in lust.
“I was really in love.”
Cabanting asked for a second chance and told August that he would never see him in his court again.
Deputy Public Defender William “Pili” McGrath said the defendant is young, has otherwise lived a law-abiding life and graduated from high school, where he did well. No substance abuse is in involved in the incident.
“I would put this case in the category of bad judgment and lust,” McGrath said.
“He did make a big mistake. He knows that.”
Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Martin, arguing for a full 10 years in prison, urged the court to consider Cabanting’s actions after he was warned to stay away from the underage victim the first time.
“He knew at that time he was in a lot of trouble . . . He does it again,” Martin said.
Martin said the law is designed to protect young children, who may not understand the circumstances and the ramifications of a decision to engage in sexual activity. Cabanting used his position at the church as a youth pastor to groom his victim, Martin said.
In the first incident Cabanting climbed through the victim’s bedroom window saying he wanted to share a religious experience, Martin said.
Cabanting said things went from God to intimacy.
The victim’s stepfather said the family had told Cabanting to stay away from the girl.
“He doesn’t seem to get it. Clearly it is an issue and it is serious,” the man said.
But he said he believes there is a chance for Cabanting to turn his life around.