A traveling evangelist who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a Georgia teen in 2012 was sentenced to 10 years probation and was spared prison time.
Paul Jason Brothers, 40, of Ohio, was accused of raping and molesting a then-14-year-old girl when he was staying as a guest in her family’s home while he was preaching at North Mt. Zion Church of God in Hiawassee, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News report.
Brothers, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, was indicted in 2013 on charges of rape, statutory rape, two counts of aggravated child molestation, three counts of child molestation and simple assault, the Dayton Daily News reports.
Brothers sexually assaulted the teen when she got up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water, court records show, the AJC reports.
On Wednesday, as part of a plea deal allowing Brothers to avoid prison, he confessed in court to inappropriately touching the teen, who is now 21, and pleaded guilty to two counts of felony sexual battery on a minor, sentencing documents obtained by PEOPLE show.
As part of the plea deal, he will return home to Ohio, where he will serve his probation. However, he only has to serve four of his 10 years of probation because he received credit for being under house arrest with an ankle bracelet in Ohio since August 23, 2013, while he waited for the case to be resolved, the sentencing documents show.
He is now listed on the sex offender registry and is prohibited from interacting with any female child under the age of 16, according to the court documents.
Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeff Langley acknowledges to PEOPLE that the sentence isn’t “ideal,” but he says the victim is “glad this person can be labeled a sex offender and that everyone will be on notice not to trust this individual in the presence of young women.”
Langley praises the victim as “courageous in being willing to cooperate with us in prosecuting this case.”
The victim’s mother isn’t happy with the sentence, however.
“I feel like he got just a slap on the wrist,” the victim’s mother told the AJC on Thursday.
Prosecutor: Delays Caused Light Sentence
Brothers’ attorney, David Ralston, is the House Speaker in the Georgia state legislature and has been accused of using his position as a lawmaker to delay court proceedings to benefit his clients, the AJC reports. Ralston delayed Brothers’ case at least 8 times in the last 6 years, the paper reports.
Ralston’s delays prevented the prosecution in this case from securing a more stringent sentence, Langley told the AJC.
“We were relying on witnesses remembering something that happened in 2012,” Langley said. “That makes it difficult on prosecutors. It raises all those questions about how clear are memories.”
In addition, “The jury sees a 21-year-old woman, not that 14-year-old victim,” Langley said.
When the case first started, state law allowed legislators who were also lawyers to delay court appearances to attend to state business. The law has since been amended to allow judges greater discretion in the matter.
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The assault wrought havoc on the victim’s life: She came forward about being abused by Brothers after her parents discovered she had slit her wrists, the AJC reports.
At the sentencing, the victim opened up about the continuing trauma the assault has caused her over the years, including an increase in health problems, flashbacks and panic attacks.
“Someone I knew and trusted invaded my body and soul,” she said. “Some days, I don’t even recognize myself or the person I have become as this trauma has shaped me into someone else.”
At the same time, she vowed to put the attack behind her. “I know in my heart that the charges on the paper will never compare to what he did to me that night,” she said, “but I hope after all this time I will finally be able to get some peace and move on with my life as a stronger person than I was before.”
In a statement emailed from his spokesman, Ralston said, “As is often the case in criminal proceedings, the Brothers case was resolved by a negotiated plea agreed to by the District Attorney and my client and accepted in open court.”
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