Clergy abuse cases move through legal system - Word&Way

Clergy abuse cases move through legal system

BENTON, Ark. (ABP) — A music minister convicted of molesting young boys at a Southern Baptist church in Arkansas got a parole hearing two years into a 10-year prison sentence, while a British Baptist minister jailed in Virginia for similar crimes will wait a little longer to learn what his punishment will be.

Members of First Baptist Church in Benton, Ark., were uneasy about recent parole hearings for David Pierce, the church's music minister for 29 years before his 2009 arrest on multiple counts of sexual indecency with a child.

"Being a member of the church and having gone through that with them, I don't think it is time yet," Bruce Pennington, the county sheriff who was the arresting officer told Fox 16 television news in Little Rock. "As the Bible says we are supposed to forgive, and I'm hoping that everyone can forgive, but do you forget that easily? I don't think so."

Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Ken Casady attended a Jan. 19 parole hearing for Pierce at the Ouachita River unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction in Malvern, Ark., where Pierce is incarcerated. In a letter to correction officials, Casady objected to Pierce's release, citing the wishes of victims.

Pierce was originally charged with 54 counts of sex offenses, most involving men in their 20s and 30s who came forward years after the alleged acts occurred. Due to statutes of limitations, he was convicted on just four counts.

Eight members of Pierce's family reportedly attended a second hearing Jan. 25 that was closed to the press at the prisoner's request. Correction officials said that is standard procedure for parole boards, but the head of the Arkansas Press Association said the practice violates the state's freedom of information act.

Officials did not say when a decision will be announced regarding Pierce's possible parole, the Benton Courier reported Jan. 26.

In Fairfax, Va., meanwhile, a sentencing hearing originally scheduled Jan. 28 for Robert Dando, former senior minister at Worcester Park Baptist Church in suburban London, was postponed.

A source following the case said Dando's attorney requested a continuance in order to schedule a psychiatric evaluation. A spokesman for the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office said Dando is being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center and that his next court date is scheduled for March 25 in the Fairfax County Circuit Court.

Dando, 46, pleaded guilty Nov. 3 to four counts of aggravated sexual battery of a victim under 13. He was accused of sexually abusing two sons of a family friend in Virginia during visits to the United States over a number of years.

British police are investigating whether Dando had other victims in the United Kingdom.


Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Previous ABP stories:

British police investigating minister who confessed to abuse in U.S. (11/11/2010)

British Baptist minister pleads guilty to child molestation in Va. (11/3/2010)

British Baptist minister faces sexual-battery charges (9/30/2010)

British Baptist minister jailed in Virginia on sex charges (8/12/2010)

Former music minister sentenced for sexual abuse (8/31/2009)

Prominent Ark. music minister arrested for indecency with a minor (4/27/2009)