Youth Pastor Scott Hoppe Sentenced for Sexual Abuse

My thanks to the Journal Times for this story.

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RACINE — The former Burlington pastor who had an ongoing romantic and sexual relationship with one of his youth group members is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” a prosecutor said Monday.

Judge Gerald Ptacek sentenced Scott Hoppe to four years in prison and six on extended supervision, a sentence which adds one year of incarceration and three of supervision to Hoppe’s initial sentence.

Hoppe, 33, groomed his victim and her family over the course of several years to gain their trust and weaken boundaries, Deputy District Attorney Richard Chiapete said. By the time the girl was 16, their relationship had progressed. Eventually, he was leaving his home and sneaking into her bedroom nearly every night.

The defense asked the judge to follow a Department of Corrections recommendation, sentencing him to three years of prison and three on extended supervision, to run at the same time as an identical sentence in Walworth County for related crime.

Chiapete said Hoppe is “everyone’s worst nightmare.” He presented one face to the world, and kept another hidden inside.

“This is a man who has couched himself as a man of God,” Chiapete said. “Inside, the real Scott Hoppe is very different. He’s evil, manipulative and egocentric.”

The victim’s father said it is easy for parents to teach their children about some dangers from adults: “We teach our children to avoid strangers, to stay away from guys in trench coats that look like monsters,” he said. “We don’t teach them to stay away from their pastors.”

The victim’s mother questioned Hoppe’s remorse: “I hope he feels remorse, but how would you know with someone who has so skillfully lied?”

The victim said Hoppe took away her faith: “I’ve been unable to step in church or rely on faith because of how he used that as part of the abuse.”

Hoppe’s wife, Jennifer Hoppe, said that while she knows the girl her husband abused is a victim, there are seven other victims in this case as well: herself, and the six Hoppe children. She said her husband has shown remorse and growth since the relationship came to light 18 months ago.

“I do not believe he is evil or putting on an elaborate show,” she said. “I believe in a God of grace and miracles.

“I’m proud of the repentant and changing man (he is now). I’m begging for mercy. So are our children.”

Hoppe said he has realized the relationship was wrong, and called it “an addiction.”

“I’ve come to understand my authority was so great that we could never have had an equal relationship,” he said. “Rather than confess and stop the behavior, I continued to deceive and do what I knew was wrong.”

He said it has been difficult to have his actions aired publicly, but that has also given him freedom.

“I have no more secrets,” he said. “The ugliest parts of my life are known.”

Ptacek said Hoppe used his position to hurt his victim.

“It is clear he took advantage of his position of pastor and took advantage of a child who was learning her sexuality at the time,” Ptacek said. “This is always tragic. People do things to young people. It just takes something from them and violates their sense of trust.

“When you do this, you obviously wreak havoc on the life of the victim.”

She and her family asked the court to give him the longest sentence possible. Hoppe entered pleas to two charges, child enticement and sex with a child between the ages of 16 and 18. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, nine months in jail and 15 years on extended supervision.

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