Update 4/26/2009 — Chester Mulligan responds exactly as predicted.
These are my thoughts on Chester Mulligan’s sentencing, and what it means for victims and any church with which he has further contact.
Chester Mulligan pleaded guilty to a significantly-reduced charge of felony stalking, instead of facing trial for the sexual abuse charges made against him. He will serve no jail time and probably return to Grace Baptist Church and Christian School in Miami, FL, where he is the senior pastor.
By accepting this plea bargain, Mulligan gets this monkey off his back. There is no longer a looming sex abuse charge throwing a grey cloud over his life and his ministry. From the beginning he publically pronounced his case would never go to court. Well, it finally did, but he managed to take most of the teeth out of it.
He has also created a largely deniable situation. He can spin this to say it was his way to get this burden removed from God’s work, since the person who accused him seemed to feel his responses to those accusations were tantamount to stalking — or something similar. He can also say that though he was charged with sex abuse, these charges were not proveable in court — thus the reduced sentence; therefore, he is innocent.
Under the legal terms of most of our country, Mulligan is innocent until proven guilty. He was not proven guilty. On a technicality, he can say that if he wasn’t proven guilty of the sex abuse charges, he is innocent of them. The truth is – and must be continually asserted – he was NOT proven innocent of the charges (though the legal burden of proof is on the prosecution, not the defense). Under a plea agreement, there is no opportunity to prove guilt. He pled guilty to a lesser charge in a plea agreement – that is an entirely different matter than being proven innocent, or failure to prove guilt and, therefore, “proving” innocence.
What this means, however, is that Mulligan will almost certainly be free to return to pastoring his church and leading the Christian school there. He will be able to assert that his day in court did not find him guilt of sex abuse. Whether by statement or implication he can continue to assert that the charges against him were false and that the victim is all of the negative labels he has placed on her over the past eight years.
Most importantly of all, this plea bargain and sentence will allow Mulligan to continue his alleged activities if, in fact, he is guilty of them. Sexual predators do not stop until they are forced to stop. IF (since no charges have technically been proven) this moniker applies to Mulligan, the continuation of alleged abuse would apply as well.
It is universally true in any sex abuse situation — for the well-being of other children and adults, anyone who has experienced sexual abuse must come forward. At least in this case, if applicable, now someone else has paved a path – it’s a start. But it is only a start.
Filed under: abuse and the church, Abusive Leaders, child abuse, child sexual abuse, In the News - Abuse & the Church, pedophiles, predators, sex abuse | Tagged: abuse and the church, Chester Mulligan, child abuse, child sex abuse, Clergy Abuse, clergy sex abuse, molestation, pastor abuse |