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Saturday, January 13, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor found guilty of sexual molestation

AMHERST VA — A local pastor was found guilty Thursday of molesting a teenage boy he was formerly tutoring.

The Rev. Kenneth Payne, 70, was charged with taking indecent liberties and sodomizing the 17-year-old.

Payne has preached at New Prospect Baptist Church in the Pleasant View area of Amherst County for the past 14 years.

Judge J. Michael Gamble heard Thursday’s nine-hour bench trail and found Payne guilty of taking indecent liberties and not guilty of sodomy.

Payne and the teenager met in May 2006 through the Homebound Learning program offered by the Amherst County school system.

Homebound Learning is for students who get in trouble, or are struggling in a traditional school environment. The teen entered the program last spring after he got caught with marijuana and was suspended from Amherst County High School.

The charges against Payne came after a May 25 meeting at the church where the teen said the pastor unzipped the victim’s pants and fondled him. He said shortly after that, the pastor sat down at waist level, clutched the teen’s buttocks and performed oral sex on him. He also testified that Payne licked him in the ear.

A state forensic scientist said Payne’s DNA was found on swabs taken from the victim’s ear.

Payne said the teen had shown up at the church unannounced that day and that he sensed the boy might be in trouble and needed comforting.

He testified that he put his arm around the teen and kissed him on the ear.

“I was looking at him with compassionate eyes, not passionate ones,” Payne said.

The teen said he sped away from the church in his car shortly afterward. He said Payne saw him leave, got into his car and chased him for a while before the teen got away.

Payne said the only reason he was following the teenager was because they had left the church at the same time and were both headed east to Madison Heights.

The victim’s grandmother said he called her after leaving the church and told her about the incident. The two later met up and went to see his mother who works in Madison Heights.

The boy’s mother testified that she saw her son after the incident.

“He was talking to me in a way that said, ‘Mama, you’ve got to believe me,’” she said.

Payne’s lawyer, John Falcone, said the teen’s version of the incident was not credible and had changed drastically since the time of the incident.

New Prospect church members, former co-workers and students testified on Payne’s behalf, saying he was a trustworthy person. While two former teachers testified that the teen had a reputation for lying.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Cary Payne argued that the inconsistencies were the result of a scared kid who was embarrassed and initially reluctant to talk about what had happened.

Cary Payne also called into question why the Rev. Payne called the administrative line at the sheriff’s department on May 25 instead of 911 if he thought the boy might be in danger. The Rev. Payne said that was a mistake, but that he did not do that so he could have time to think up a story about what had happened at the church.

Payne faces one to five years in prison when he’s sentenced March 14. He also will be required to register as a sex offender.