Ex-mega church pastor gets 12 years in sex scandal - FOX 35 News Orlando

Ex-mega church pastor gets 12 years in sex scandal

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A former northwest Indiana megachurch pastor was sentenced to 12 years in prison Wednesday for sex crimes involving a 17-year-old female church member.

Former church members who attended the sentencing Wednesday expressed their disappointment in a man they considered their spiritual leader.

"It disgusts me. It saddens me, especially for the poor girl and her family," former church member Sergio Navarrete says of the crime.

"Thank God I left when I did, so that way I don't become a victim, so that way my kids don't become victims," Nadine Salgado says.

Former First Baptist Church of Hammond members spoke out as their Pastor Jack Schaap was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Schaap pleaded guilty to having a 16-year-old girl transported Illinois and Michigan last year to carry on a sexual relationship.

In his letters to the girl that were filed last week, Schaap said his relationship with the girl was "God's plan" and often discusses how he helped save her from self-destruction, helping to put her on a "better path of living — that's what we call Righteousness."

The girl and her family are still dealing with the ramifications of the relationship, according to letters they wrote to the court.

The girl wrote about how she spent her entire life in the church, listening to Schaap preach three times a week and being taught that he was a messenger of God.

"He told me to confide in him, to trust him, and he made me feel safe and comfortable around him as a man of God," she wrote. "(Schaap) preyed on that trust and my vulnerability."

In another letter written to Schaap, she says she was shocked when he first kissed her. When she asked if it was wrong, Schaap told her it was OK.

"You told me that I was sent to you from God, I was his gift to you," the letter says.

She admits that by the time they were discovered, she thought she was in love with him and at first didn't admit he had victimized her.

"I feel that as a man of God, he committed this horrible crime, but then you're going to use Christ's name? That makes it even worse," Navarrete says.

Schaap's family left the federal courthouse without comment, but his attorney spoke about his sentence.

"What happened in this matter was horribly unfortunate. He accepts absolute responsibility for what happened," Schaap's attorney Paul Stracci says. "It's important also, it was important to him that the congregation of his church or his former church understands that the buck stopped with him."

Eddie Wilson, spokesperson for the church released this statement:

"Today our former Pastor Jack Schaap was sentenced to prison. Many people are asking if we believe that the sentencing is fair and just. We from the beginning have turned everything over to our local authorities because we believe in the justice system. We always knew this day would come and still feel the same today as we did when we turned our former pastor in for the crimes that he committed. We believe that the justice system was and is fair. We are also glad that our church family can now move beyond this situation and can continue the healing process. We have selected a new pastor with whom we are very pleased and look forward to his leadership in the days ahead at the First Baptist Church of Hammond."

A friend of the former pastor's family also shared some insight.

"He wishes healing to all involved, the church, to the victim and her family and as well as his own family," Scott Pryor says.

Schaap's attorney says the pastor hopes his former church and congregation can begin the healing process.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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