Minister pleads guilty to molesting boys in Fairfax
The former pastor of a Fairfax County church pleaded guilty Monday morning to molesting two boys who were under his supervision in the 1990s, and Fairfax prosecutors agreed to a deal in which the man would spend no time in jail.
But Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows said he may not accept the deal, in which case the defendant, Tommy R. Shelton Jr., could withdraw his plea and take the case to another judge.
Shelton, 65, was the pastor of Community Church of God in the Dunn Loring area from 1995 to 2000. Authorities said two men came forward to Fairfax police in 2008 and alleged that Shelton sexually assaulted them in the 1990s.
Shelton, who had been living in Kentucky, was arrested in March.
Both victims were in the courtroom for Shelton's pleas to two felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a child under the adult's supervision. Each charge carriies a penalty of up to five years in prison. Both said afterward they approved the plea deal, even without jail time, as long as Shelton admitted his guilt and was placed on the sex offender registry.
One of the men testified at a May hearing, and Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Katherine E. Stott confirmed Monday, that Shelton had performed oral sex on him in 1995 or 1996, when he was 14. Shelton had been seeing the boy for counseling and piano lessons, Stott said, and told him that their various sexual activity was "the type of relationship a father and son had."
The other man testified in May that when he was 11, he and Shelton would go on bike rides, and Shelton would direct him into the woods and then fondle him. Stott said on one occasion, Shelton molested the boy in the kitchen of the Community Church of God.
Bellows, a former federal prosecutor, seemed skeptical of a plea bargain with no jail time. "I'm telling you all right now," the judge said, "I may ultimately reject this agreement."
Shelton has been free on bond, and Bellows said that without the plea agreement, "I would have little doubt about incarcerating the defendant pending sentencing." But prosecutors did not ask for Shelton's bond to be revoked, or for any jail sentence, so he allowed Shelton to remain free.
Bellows asked the prosecutor why she had agreed to the plea deal proposed by defense attorneys Kimberly Irving and Thomas Pavlinic. Stott said she had discussed the proposal with the two victims, and the risks of going to trial, and they had accepted it.
She said the only evidence would be the two men's testimony about events up to 15 years ago, that Shelton had not spoken to police and had no prior criminal record.
After the hearing, the victims said they would be prepared to testify at trial if the judge rejects it and Shelton goes to trial.
"It's been a long time coming," said one of the men, now 24, who noted that allegations of abuse have followed Shelton through other ministries in other states. "I know many of the victims, and I know they are happy with this too."
The other victim, now 29, said, "He's taken something for me I'll never get back...As long as he's admitted guilt and he's a registered sex offender, that he can't do this to others, that's really what I wanted."
Shelton declined to comment after the hearing. Bellows ordered a pre-sentence report, and set a sentencing hearing for Sept. 24, where he will decide whether to accept or reject the plea deal.
-- Tom Jackman
July 19, 2010; 12:13 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax , From the Courthouse , Sex Crimes , Tom Jackman , Updates
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