An Ohio youth pastor was sentenced to 10 years in prison for carrying on a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old church member.
Brian Mitchell, 31, who was the youth pastor at Columbia Road Baptist Church, sat looking anxious as the 90-minute hearing drew to a close with Judge Peter Corrigan handing down the sentence.
Mitchell, who has a wife and three children, pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual battery.
“I’m so sorry to [the] family,” Mitchell said. “I can’t imagine the work and effort you’ve had to put into fixing your family.”
The girl in a letter to the judge that she looked up to Mitchell, and that she sought him out to learn how to live a more spiritual life through religion.
Mitchell began sending her text messages that became more and more frequent. Someone brought it to the attention of church leaders and the texting stopped for a time.
He started up again, and the girl said the tone of the messages quickly turned from innocent and fun to serious. She said he complained about his wife and their marital problems.
She wrote that she wanted the texts to stop but felt scared to say anything because he was a powerful figure in the church and in her life.
One day, he drove to her home and told her to come out to his car. He kissed her and told her he wanted to see her again.
The next time he drove out to her home, he had sex with her in his car. Another time he had sex with her at her home while his wife was out of town, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Kristen Karkutt said.
“I did not give him permission,” the girl wrote in the letter. “I clearly said ‘no, didn’t want to.’ I felt like he tricked me.
As disturbing as this story is, the way the church allegedly treated the girl’s family makes it even more so.
According to testimony from the girl’s mother, “church officials told her their family couldn’t return to the church until she apologized to Mitchell’s wife.”
In a now-deleted Facebook post (their entire Facebook page seems to have been deleted), the church claimed that the accusation is based on a “serious misunderstanding.”
The post obviously leaves many unanswered questions and makes no effort to explain what the “misunderstanding” was.
The girl’s family reportedly no longer belongs to the church.
Featured image: Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department