Disgraced Baptist pastor: Please don’t blame my victim or her family
BY Teresa Auch Schultz Sun-Times Media March 20, 2013 9:55PM
Jack Schaap, former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 22, 2013 12:27PM
The former pastor of a Hammond megachurch, who admitted he brought a teenage girl from Indiana to Michigan and to his property in Crete to have sex with her, was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in prison.
Former First Baptist Church of Hammond Pastor Jack Schaap expressed repentance at his sentencing hearing, accepting responsibility for seducing a 17-year-old girl and telling her their sexual relationship was fulfilling God’s will. He even pleaded with his former congregation to stop blaming the victim.
“If you love me, please don’t blame this family for my wrongdoing,” Schaap, 55, told a packed courtroom at U.S. District Court in Hammond.
Judge Rudy Lozano didn’t buy that Schaap came clean from the start, however, noting the pastor fired at least one employee and repeatedly asked another to destroy evidence of his crime before Schaap finally agreed to plead guilty to having a minor transported across state lines last year to Crete and Cadillac, Mich., for sexual relations.
That’s partly why Lozano did not grant federal attorneys’ request to sentence Schaap to 10 years in prison, the mandatory minimum sentence on the charge, and instead sentenced him to 12 years plus five years of supervised release, the judge said.
Schaap has been in jail since his arrest last summer.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster argued for a sentence lighter than guidelines call for, saying Schaap had saved the government from expending resources on the case and the victim from going through the torture of a trial by agreeing to plead guilty even before he was charged.
Lozano said he understood the benefits of that but was concerned about setting a precedent of slashing so much time, in this case almost four years, for a crime he considers “very serious.”
“We’re dealing with the treasures that are most important to us: our children,” Lozano said.
First Baptist officials said in a news release they thought the criminal justice system had been fair in the case.
“We are also glad that our church family can now move beyond this situation and can continue the healing process,” spokesman Eddie Wilson said.