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Boulder County ex-pastor sentenced in teen sex crimes case

A Colorado defendant accused of a sexual offense can experience rapid, harsh backlash. The public's emotionally-charged response to allegations of sexual misconduct does not wait for proof of wrongdoing or a verdict. A criminal defense lawyer understands the high stakes – damage to reputation and personal and professional relationships.

A former youth pastor at a Boulder County church will spend the next two years in prison for a relationship he once had with a female churchgoer. The victim was 15 when the alleged misconduct began. The ex-youth pastor, now 35, is the son of the Vinelife Church's senior pastor.

A plea deal resulted in a reduction of charges. Prosecutors agreed to eliminate charges of unlawful sexual contact and child sexual assault in a position of trust. The defendant pleaded guilty to charges of stalking and sexual exploitation.

After release, the defendant will be required to spend a month in the Boulder County Jail, possibly as part of a work detail. He also must participate in a decade-long probation program designed for sex-offenders. During the sentencing hearing, the accused man admitted he made an unhealthy choice.

Family members told the court the youth pastor took advantage of the power of his position to create a "circle of trust" within the girl's family. The defendant visited the teen at her home and stalked the girl. The former congregant, now a 24-year-old Boulder resident, filed a liability suit against the defendant and the church.

Five Vinelife Church officials were charged with not reporting child sexual abuse. Four defendants go on trial this fall. A fifth – not the senior pastor -- was given a deferred sentence after entering a guilty plea.

One person's false accusations can be the basis for serious sexual assault charges that have the potential to ruin a person's life. This is no time for a defendant to second-guess the value of legal advice.

Source: Daily Camera, "Boulder County youth pastor to serve 2 years in prison over relationship with teen church member" Alex Burness, Jul. 18, 2014

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