BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (ABP) — A former American Baptist youth minister who entered and then withdrew a guilty plea of sending nude photos to a 15-year-old girl he was counseling has been convicted of sexual assault.
The Connecticut Post reported that a jury of three men and three women deliberated four hours March 24 before finding David Esarey guilty of second-degree sexual assault, promoting a minor in an obscene performance, possession of child pornography and risk of injury to a minor.
Esarey, who was 30 at the time of his arrest in November 2008, had been youth minister for about three years at Stepney Baptist Church in Monroe, Conn., when a fellow church member accidently found a nude photo of the girl while using Esarey's church computer.
Esarey initially denied all allegations, suggesting that some youth in the church might have used his computer and cell phone without his knowledge. Later, he admitted sending sexually explicit e-mails to the girl and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of risk of injury to a minor in January 2009.
The girl, who is now 17, said in the beginning that the two talked about having sex but did not have any physical contact except for an occasional hug. During the two-week trial, however, she testified that they performed sexual acts in a storage area of the church and at Esarey's apartment behind the church.
Esarey's lawyer contended in her final argument the girl lied about sexual contact with the defendant. Esarey did not take the stand. His sentencing is scheduled May 14.
Stepney Baptist Church is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches of Connecticut. Kevin Merritt, pastor of Stepney Baptist Church, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In January 2009 Merritt said Esarey had not worked in any capacity at the church since his arrest.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.