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Saturday, March 11, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor receives 23 years for sex abuse

MOBILE Al -- A judge sentenced an Irvington preacher to 23 years in prison for a sexual abuse conviction that involved a father and son, who described similar cases of abuse 20 years apart.

The Rev. Dennis Lamar Fields, 52, pastor at Bethel Holiness Church in south Mobile County, was sentenced Thursday by Mobile County Circuit Judge Charles Graddick.

A large group of Fields' friends, family members and church members attended.

In trial testimony, Fields' victim, now an adult, told jurors Fields took lewd photos of him as a 9-year-old child and later burned them in a backyard trash can, promising never to molest him again.

He called police 20 years later, he said, when his own 9-year-old son revealed that Fields had begun molesting him as well.

Two other adult men -- one of them a defense witness -- also provided testimony indicating Fields also had sexually exploited them when they were boys.

At sentencing, defense attorney Dennis Knizley called witnesses on Fields' behalf. Some were family. Some were friends or members of his church.

Appealing for mercy, they told Graddick that the longtime preacher, family patriarch and spiritual leader held the congregation and his large family together by his benevolence and goodness.

One witness, an adult son of Fields, wailed out on the witness stand, choking his words off with sobs.

A relative of the victims told Graddick that after Fields' conviction, the little boy endured verbal threats from the pastor's supporters and family members.

The child now lives in fear, she said, and wants Fields put away.

"This doesn't make me mad," Graddick said just before he sentenced Fields. "It makes me sick."

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