Youth Pastor Sentenced To 28 Years In Teen Sex Case

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami.com) – A Broward County judge sentenced a former youth pastor to nearly 29 years in prison after he pled no-contest in June to charges of having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Russell Lewis pled no contest on three counts of sexual battery and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct. He had worked at the Church by the Glades when he started the relationship with the girl.

When he learned of the sentence, Lewis slumped over a podium and bowed his head.

The pair met while Lewis was a married youth pastor. The abuse occurred over a period of several months in 2009.

During the sentencing, the wife of the church pastor — Lisa Hughes — read a letter written by the teenage victim.

“Not only was I robbed of my virginity I’m still traumatized whenever I think of Russell,” the victim wrote.  “He groomed me to believe that I was worthless and that he was the only one who truly cared about me.”

The victim said Lewis tried to control her — making her feel guilty if she spent time with friends, trying to drive a wedge between her and her parents and even asking her to dress sexy for him. The victim wrote that the abuse damaged her relationship with her church.

“I do not feel safe at church — a place where security and comfort should go hand in hand,” the victim wrote. “Instead of that, I feel shame and fear.”

The victim’s therapist, Marti Wibbels, told the court she’s spent more than 100 hours counseling the girl. She said Lewis manipulated the victim.

“He tricked her into trusting him,” Wibbels said. “He knew what he was doing and where he was going.”

Police said all of the encounters between Lewis and the girl occurred on church property. The relationship lasted for five months and was said to be consensual. But, under Florida law, a 14-year-old cannot legally consent to a sexual relationship with an adult.

Lewis faced more than 100 years in prison for his crimes.

Lewis was fired from his job after his arrest in November 2009. Pastor David Hughes said Lewis’ actions were a grave betrayal.

“To betray not just the church or the calling but to betray a family — it’s been in my 13 years at Church by the Glades the worst storm we’ve weathered,” Hughes testified.

Lewis addressed the court and apologized to the victim and her family.

“I took a lot away from your family and I know it’s affected the young lady,” he said.

He begged the judge for a second chance and said he’s hurt his mother, family and even become suicidal.

“I’ve lost a lot of respect for myself,” he admitted. “I’m ashamed.”

Lewis’attorney, Shlomi Presser, argued that Lewis qualified for leniency from the sentencing guidelines because this was Lewis’ first brush with the law, he is remorseful and it was an isolated case. However, Judge Sandra Perlman disagreed, sending Lewis to prison for nearly three decades.

Lewis can appeal the sentence. When CBS 4 News asked Presser whether Lewis would appeal the sentence, Presser said, “No comment.”

More from Carey Codd
Comments

One Comment

  1. bubbasbrother says:

    “Youth pastor”

    God could have helped on this one. Maybe he can share a cell with Big Bubba?

    Praise Jesus

  2. abootnkiki says:

    and here wears an earing to the sentencing; no respect;give him life

    1. bill davise says:

      it’s not a podium; it’s a lectern. you stand on a podium. you speak from a lectern.

  3. Carol says:

    This man needs to be thrown into jail for manslaughter nothing more nothing less because once a child is raped the child you knew is dead and now you are dealing with an adult in a child’s body she or he is completely different on the inside.

    I know first hand it happened to me when I was 12 and it went on for until I was 21 and I lost everything myself my family friends and so many jobs I can’t count I was the rape and the rape was me and there was no separating it until I got help and that was many many years later even to this day and I am 60 something it still effects me but not as badly but it is still with me no matter what,

  4. dpacheco20 says:

    HE SHOULD FEEL SHAME TO HAVE USE THE JOB HE HAD AS A YOUTH PASTOR TO DO WHAT HE DID NOW HE WILL SEAT AND HAVE LOTS OF TIME TO THINK ABOUT WHAT HE DID IN GODS NAME ,AND THAT HE WILL NOT DO IT TO ANY OTHER KIDS ALL HE IS ITS A DOG IF I CAN CALL HIM THAT BUT THEM BUT I DONT THINK THAT I CAN CALL HIM A DOG TO NICE OF A NAME FOR HIM MAYBE HE WILL GET THE SAME THING IN PRISON LIKE HE DID TO THE KID GOD BE WITH YOU MR RAPES

  5. JCT says:

    what the heck is a youth pastor?

  6. richard says:

    it is about time that a court system addresses these crimes with sentences to match the crime.now how about all the priest that have done the same.for years catholic priest have gotten away with the same violations of trust,continued to behave as if using children was a perk of the order,since this is so widespread throughout the world.why are they able to continue to behave this way?could it be that the vatican is a sanctioned hub for molestation?

  7. B McLaughlin says:

    His lawyer calls this “a BRUSH with the law”? A “brush with the law” is a speeding ticket. Let’s hope that this guy never gets out of prison.

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