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Wednesday, May 24, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Ex-minister sentenced to 10 years

Admits to sex crimes against 15-year-old church member

PASCAGOULA MS — Paul Valentine, former youth minister at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Ocean Springs, pleaded guilty Monday to sex crimes against a 15-year-old church member in 2005.

Senior Circuit Judge Kathy King Jackson ordered Valentine to spend the next 10 years behind bars and even more should he violate any conditions of his sentencing on three different felony offenses.

"I have two children who just graduated from high school and I know how hard it is to keep your children safe," Jackson told Valentine on Monday. "I can't think of anything worse that you could've done. I sit up here sometimes and sometimes I feel bad about sending people to prison - sometimes but not that often."

Jackson had no qualms about sentencing Valentine shortly after his victim and her father addressed the court Monday. The judge told Valentine that she'd make sure that he'd never again have any contact with any children or the victim and the victim's family.

Ocean Springs police arrested Valentine, now 37, in September 2004 and charged him with two counts of sexual battery and one count of touching a child for lustful purposes.

Valentine admitted engaging in sex acts with the victim, now 17, on three occasions, two of which occurred on Sept. 16, 2004, while he was seeking shelter from Hurricane Ivan at the home of the victim's parents. The third incident occurred on Labor Day 2004.

Jackson sentenced Valentine to 20 years, each with 10 years suspended and five years' probation, on each count of sexual battery. In addition, she sentenced him to a 15-year prison term with five years suspended and five years' probation on the charge of touching a child for lustful purposes. He's also required to register as a sex offender after his release.

"You're going to serve every day of 10 years," Jackson said.

The victim's father spoke at Monday's sentencing. He said his family had met Valentine at an out-of-town religious conference.

"We did everything we could to bring him to our church," the father said. "We loved him. We took him into our home. We fed him. We allowed him access to our children."

The victim said in a prepared statement that she refused to allow what had happened to affect the rest of her life. She said it hadn't been easy but she'd learned that she wasn't to blame for anything.

Valentine asked her to forgive him.

"When you were your most vulnerable, I was not the pastor you needed me to be," Valentine said. "I am so sorry for what happened between us, and I pray that one day you'll be able to forgive me."