An Ohio judge sentenced a “delusional” former youth pastor to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing a teenage member of the church where he served as a volunteer.
Brian Mitchell pleaded guilty Thursday to four counts of sexual battery, and a Cuyahoga County judge rejected his attorney’s recommendation for house arrest but did not impose the maximum 20-year prison term, reported the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The 31-year-old Mitchell, a father of three children under age 8, began sending text messages to the victim, then 16 years old, that quickly turned to complaints about his marriage.
The girl, who told the judge in a letter that she had sought spiritual guidance from Mitchell, said she was afraid to ask the volunteer to stop sending the texts because he was a respected and powerful member of Columbia Road Baptist Church in North Olmsted.
Church leaders heard from a congregant about the texts, which stopped for awhile, but Mitchell eventually resumed his messages and then kissed her after driving the girl home in August 2015.
The next time he drove her home, she said, he began sexually abusing her, and the abuse continued for another month.
“I did not give him permission,” the girl told the court in her letter. “I clearly said ‘no, didn’t want to.’ I felt like he tricked me.”
The girl became lost interest in school, sports and work, and she was too depressed to get out of bed.
She told the court she still suffered from nightmares and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Church leaders spoke to Mitchell the day after learning of the sex abuse in November and then reported the case to police.
The girl’s mother testified during the sentencing hearing that church leaders also told the family not to come back to church until her daughter had apologized to Mitchell’s wife.
The family stopped going to the church, and Mitchell’s attorney said he had not heard that until the hearing.
The defense attorney, Ian Friedman, said Mitchell had been caught up in “an adrenaline- and lust-filled situation” after whirlwind of secret text and social media messages, but the judge sternly lectured the former church volunteer.
“Your delusional excuse — that there were emotions and love involved — is troubling,” said Judge Patrick Corrigan. “That’s extremely delusional.”