A married Pennsylvania pastor who admitted to sexually assaulting and impregnating a teenage member of his congregation been sentenced to three to six years in prison.
Thirty-five-year-old Jacob Malone, pastor of Calvary Fellowship, a nondenominational church in Downingtown, was sentenced Friday after entering guilty pleas to institutional sex assault, corruption of minors and child endangerment. The AP reports the former pastor also must register as a sex offender for 15 years.
Malone, who is married and has three young children, had first met the victim years ago when she was 12-years-old and attending a Mesa, Arizona, church where he worked as a pastor, authorities said. He contacted the girl in June 2014, when she was 17 years old, and invited her to come stay with him and his family in Minnesota. After she moved in his family, he began sexually assaulting her.
The young woman, now aged 20, gave birth to her daughter a year ago and told the court that Malone took advantage of her "mentally, physically, spiritually" while acting as her guardian. She said Malone gave her alcohol twice after she turned 18, and in one of the instances molested her after she became highly intoxicated.
In turn, Malone admitted he gave the girl alcohol but claimed the sexual encounters were consensual. He apologized to the young woman and said his "failures and weaknesses" had hurt her, her family, and his family: "She admired me and trusted me, and I betrayed that," he said.
The New York Daily News reports that the original charges against Malone included rape; however, his defense attorney Evan Kelly said the former pastor "has always been adamant" he did not rape the teenager but has admitted to other crimes. "And for that he is embarrassed, ashamed and truly remorseful," Kelly said.
Pastor Bill Bateman said leaders at Calvary Fellowship learned of the girl's pregnancy in November 2015. At the time, Malone admitted to impregnating the teenager and resigned that same month.
"What he did is horrible," he said. "We're hurting over it, the church is hurting over it, we're hurting for his wife and kids, and, of course, the young lady."
Malone fled the US after a warrant for his arrest was issued but was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport in January 2016 after returning from Ecuador, reports WTXF.
Judge Jacqueline Cody said the case was "one of the times when the court system fails" and lamented that Malone would be "serving a sentence much lighter than the crime deserves".