James Wilkerson Sentenced in Child Sex Abuse Case

This story is courtesy of the Philadelphia Daily News.

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A 40-year-old former youth minister plead guilty yesterday to charges of deviate sexual intercourse and corrupting the morals of a 15-year-old boy.

James Wilkerson, who also uses the name James Haynes, was then sentenced as a result of a negotiated plea to a mandatory minimum of five to 10 years in state prison, followed by three years of probation.

Wilkerson was a youth minister at the Summerfield-Siloam United Methodist Church in Kensington when he improperly touched the boy from November 2006 to May 2007.

Assistant District Attorney Richard DeSipio said in court yesterday that Wilkerson told the teen that “in order to ensure spiritual and physical perfection,” he had to engage in physical activity with Wilkerson.

The teen knew Wilkerson from attending his prayer services and karate classes at the church.

DeSipio, in reading a summary of facts in the case, said the acts Wilkerson was pleading guilty to occurred both at the church, on Dauphin Street near Tulip, and at Wilkerson’s home, also on Dauphin Street, about a block from the church.

Wilkerson performed oral sex on the boy and fondled him, and he made the teen fondle his genitals, the prosecutor said.

When asked by Common Pleas Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd if he was “pleading guilty because you are guilty,” Wilkerson, dressed in a blue buttoned shirt and black slacks, answered “yes” in a matter-of-fact tone.

He said nothing more.

In imposing the negotiated sentence, the judge also ordered Wilkerson to stay away from the victim and prohibited him from having any contact with minors and from serving as a youth minister or teacher during the probationary period.

DeSipio advised the defendant that although he is not a sexually violent predator, he still faces lifetime registration under Megan’s Law as a sexual offender.

Public defender Tracy Frederick told the court that Wilkerson, a high-school graduate with some college education, was pleading guilty so the victim would not have to testify at trial.

Wilkerson had been charged in August with assault-related charges involving six boys, ages 13 to 16. All the boys had known him through the church.

Charges in four cases were dismissed at his preliminary hearing because four boys did not testify.

At the October preliminary hearing, Wilkerson was held for trial on charges of sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and corrupting the morals of a minor involving the two boys who did testify.

The 15-year-old had testified that the abuse began in November 2006, when Wilkerson touched his private area while the youth group was watching a movie at the church.

During a retreat to Ocean City, Md., in January 2007, Wilkerson woke the boy up by giving him oral sex, the teen said. At another retreat in Lancaster County in April 2007, Wilkerson also touched him inappropriately, the youth had testified.

After the Lancaster retreat, the teen said, the abuse continued almost every weekend until May of last year, when the teen told a friend.

The other boy who testified at the preliminary hearing was the victim’s 13-year-old half-brother. He said that Wilkerson played games with the boys in the youth group, during which Wilkerson slapped the boys’ backsides.

As part of the negotiated guilty plea, the District Attorney’s Office agreed to drop charges against Wilkerson in the case involving the younger teen. It also agreed to drop some charges, including sexual assault, in the case with the 15-year-old. *

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Derek Gillett Pleads Guilty to Child Molestation, 30 Year Sentence

This story is courtesy of the Cherokee Tribune

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A pastor pleaded guilty to two counts of child molestation in Cherokee County Superior Court on Friday.

Derek Gillett, 38, of southeast Cherokee County, was arrested in March for molesting two juveniles “for some time,” according to police reports. He was a pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Forsyth County.

After hearing the plea, Judge Jackson Harris sentenced Gillett to 30 years. He will serve 10 years in jail and the remainder on probation.

During his plea, Gillett said he was “forever sorry” and that he had dishonored his family and “put them through a world of hurt.”

Prior to forming Cornerstone last year, Gillett served as a volunteer youth director at Midway United Methodist Church in Alpharetta.

The victims were not members of the congregation, sheriff’s office Public Information Officer Sgt. Jay Baker said, but their relationship to Gillett was not released to protect their identities.

He originally was charged in March by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office with two counts of aggravated child molestation and two counts of sodomy.

Gillett was released later that month from the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center on $50,000 bond, but with conditions including that he wear a GPS monitoring device at all times and not have unsupervised contact with juveniles.

The Devastation of Denial

“It can’t be true. I know him and he would never do that.”

This is one of the most common things I hear in nearly every case of alleged clergy sex abuse, as well as in alleged abuse in Christian families. For every person who says these words, they are absolutely sure that this time it is the truth and it is all a big misunderstanding or conspiracy. In every separate incidence, not only are people close to the situation adamant their friend is innocent, they are often extremely angry at those who dare to believe otherwise.

Denial is incredibly powerful. Denial can stand in the face of the most blatant and obvious evidence to the contrary. When there is little or no visible, indisputable evidence, denial stands on even stronger ground. Denial will even find ways to explain away a confession.

I saw this happen in my own family’s abuse situation. Even when my ex-husband admitted in court that he had, in fact, violently abused his children over the course of many years, during which time he had successfully denied my accusations, his family and closest friends still believed my latest accusations were false because he had a perfect public image and denied any wrong-doing. Not one of them registered the slightest alarm or concern to hear him admit the things I had been saying for more than 10 years were true after all. What were the chances that my current accusations were not true when he admitted to the actions I had been trying all those years to tell about? This meant that every time I said “abuse” previously I was telling the truth and he lied. But this time I was lying and he was telling the truth? How likely is that?

But it was as if they did not even hear what he said. No one seemed able to see the obvious, including the judge. A squeaky-clean Christian, super-Boy-Scout leader façade won the day. The judge said, “Boy Scouts don’t lie…I don’t believe he’s the monster you’ve painted him to be.” Boy Scouts don’t lie, so if a bunch of Scout leaders say it ain’t so, it ain’t so. All they could see was the public face, and the public family solidarity. They couldn’t see past this to the fact that abusers always hide behind socially-acceptable fronts and know how to intimidate or manipulate family into maintaining the picture in public.

How much stronger is this conviction when the accused is a pastor or church leader? It cannot be true; it is impossible. But it is true.

And denial only increases the damage. Denial hinders people from genuine healing. Denial lightly heals the wound, or falsely heals it because people refuse to admit they are wounded or refuse to accept the real nature of the wound.

Denial also inherently lays blame on the victim, increasing the damage to that person, and making the church a toxic environment for victims instead of a healing haven.

Worst of all, it reinforces the problem of abuse in the church because denial enables abuse to continue. Denial doesn’t just affect a single family or church. Since denial is nearly universal, the entire church collectively fails to acknowledge or address abuse in the church. This means the whole church is crippled, abuse in the church is systemically enabled, and the world can look at the church with justifiable blame for being characterized by a tolerance for the most abhorrent behavior.

Brad R. Gale Sentenced to Additional 10 Yrs. in Child Sex Abuse Case

This story is courtesy of the Deseret News.

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By Geoff Liesik

He wasn’t in court for his sentencing hearing, but that didn’t prevent Brad R. Gale from being ordered to spend at least another 10 years in prison.

Gale, 50, was sentenced in absentia Thursday in 8th District Court on four felony charges related to five years of sexual abuse against a teenage boy. The former businessman who owned an office supply and religious bookstore is already serving a 15-year sentence at a federal prison in North Carolina for producing pornographic images of his victim.

“I am appalled at what I have done to my victim. … I chose pleasure over doing what was right,” Gale wrote in a letter read to the court by defense attorney Herb Gillespie. “I am grateful that my abusive actions to (my victim) have come to an end, and only regret that they ever started in the first place.”

Gale was arrested in July 2006 after a Utah County man contacted authorities and said Gale had offered to let him have sex with a teenage boy. Duchesne County investigators met with the man and recorded a telephone call between the informant and Gale. They then interviewed Gale, who admitted to the abuse and turned over Polaroid images he’d taken of his victim.

Gale was charged with 33 felony counts, but later pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated sex abuse of a child, and one count each of sodomy on a child and forcible sodomy. He also pleaded guilty in Utah County to forcible sexual abuse in a plea agreement with prosecutors there in a case stemming from his abuse of the same victim at a Provo home, and to a federal charge of producing child pornography.

Gillespie asked 8th District Court Judge John R. Anderson to weigh the “many, many good things about Brad Gale,” against his “totally inexcusable” actions when considering what sentence to impose. Gale had served in numerous civic and church positions in Roosevelt over the years. His arrest came as such a shock to the community, Gillespie said, that it was “like a punch in the stomach.”

The defense attorney asked Anderson to run a mandatory state prison sentence concurrently with Gale’s federal time, noting that an evaluation of Gale conducted prior to sentencing indicated he had a low to moderate likelihood of re-offending, is a good candidate for treatment, and has strong support from his family.

The mother of Gale’s victim told Anderson that her son supported a concurrent sentence for his abuser as well and has forgiven him. She said the 17-year-old boy, who is currently awaiting sentencing on criminal charges of his own, knows firsthand the environment Gale is in and does not believe more prison time is necessary.

But Duchesne County Attorney Stephen Foote pointed to the duration of the abuse and its likely influence on the victim’s own legal woes in asking Anderson to hand down a 10-to-life state sentence consecutive to Gale’s federal sentence.

Foote, who had dealings with the victim in juvenile court, said the teen’s probation officer could never understand why the boy seemed so happy when he was locked up in detention and so despondent when released.

Officials later learned that “when he was in detention he was safe,” Foote told Anderson. “When he got out he went right back into the situation that he was going through.”

Foote also told the judge that in the three hours it took investigators to drive from Utah County to Roosevelt after learning of the abuse in July 2006, Gale had molested the victim again in the back room of his bookstore.

“He’s damaged this young man to such an extent that he needs to be in prison,” the prosecutor said.

Anderson said he regretted that Gale was not in court for him to “look at and talk to.” In his letter, Gale said he waived his right to be present for sentencing to alleviate stress on his family and to save the taxpayers the cost of having to transport him from North Carolina to Utah and back.

Anderson called Gale’s conduct “very egregious,” adding that he’d “stolen a sense of trust” from his victim.

“No wonder (the victim) is having problems,” the judge said before following the prosecutor’s recommendation for a consecutive sentence. “I think it’s entirely justified.”

Anderson then ended the hearing by addressing Gale’s wife in the gallery.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said. “I appreciate you standing by this man, but it’s maybe time to move on.”