Sunday, October 30, 2011

I said stop, and he didn’t stop. I know he heard me,” the girl wrote. “I do not feel safe at church, a place where security and comfort should go hand in hand.”

Russell Lewis, 30, pleaded no contest in June to three counts of sexual battery by a custodial authority and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim younger than 15.
He faced a maximum sentence of 105 years in prison, but even prosecutor Adriana Alcalde-Padron said that would be excessive. She asked for a 30-year sentence.
During a four-hour hearing Friday, Lewis tried to convince Broward Circuit Judge Sandra Perlman that he deserved a short prison term followed by a lengthy probation.
“I would ask for a second chance at society, at life,” he said. “I don’t think I’m a bad person. I made a huge mistake.”
Lewis was a youth pastor at Church by the Glades, which has a congregation of between 6,000 and 7,000 members. Alcalde-Padron said Lewis met the victim when she was 12 years old and carefully manipulated her, grooming her until he could take advantage of her sexually. When she was 14, Lewis molested the girl and had sex with her during encounters between May and November of 2009, according to the charges.
The girl was in court Friday but did not testify. A statement she wrote was read aloud by a family friend. In the statement, the girl described Lewis as an oppressive and jealous figure who belittled her and robbed her of precious life experiences. Instead of looking back on her first kiss and first boyfriend with fondness, she struggles to forget them, she said.
The congregation’s head pastor, David Hughes, testified that Lewis would have had to go out of his way to take the girl to the room where they had at least one encounter.
“You would have to be very strategic to be alone to commit these acts,” he said. “I’ve never accidentally stumbled into the Spanish translation room.”

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