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Friday, February 09, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Youth pastor receives prison sentence

Youth pastor Aaron Rediger stood in Van Wert County Court of Common Pleas Wednesday morning and offered an acknowledgment of his guilt. Flanked by his lawyers and choking back tears, he admitted, "I know that after all this, I've been wrong."

Rediger, a former youth pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, was sentenced to two terms of two years in prison to be served concurrently with no time off for good behavior. He will also be placed on five years of post-release control. In a plea agreement, Rediger pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery, a third-degree felony.

Appearing before Judge Charles Steele, the 28-year-old Ohio City man was classified as a sexually-oriented offender. After his release from prison, he will be required to register with the sheriff of his county of residence, employment, and schooling as an offender and not to live within 1,000 feet of a school.

This classification was influenced by psychological reports which concluded that Rediger "is in the low-risk level to sexually reoffend at this time."

The charges stem from a sexual relationship between Rediger and a teenage female in his youth group, who stood in the crowded courtroom yesterday and emotionally addressed Rediger about the damage the affair caused in her life.

"I thank the court for considering in the sentencing the pain that Aaron Rediger has caused, not only in myself but in my family and my church family as well," she said. "As a result of this, I have lost not only my virginity, but also I've lost friends I never thought I would lose."

The young woman also talked about the pain she carries with her. "One of the biggest issues I struggle with currently and probably always will, is that of trust," she said.

After the relationship became known to the leadership of Liberty Baptist Church more than five months ago, Rediger was immediately fired and his ministerial credentials were revoked. The church also promised full cooperation in the investigation of the case.

In a prepared statement, Pastor Jim C. Burns, Sr. said, "This is a very sad day for all of us at Liberty Baptist Church. As Christians, we believe that God has guided Judge Steele and others in positions of authority in the decisions they have made in this case, and we support those decisions."

In arguing for a more lenient sentence, attorney William Kluge noted that Rediger had been raised and schooled in a very strict environment and Kluge said this had impacted him greatly. "Many of the cases that you see and we deal with on a regular basis are really the culmination of human nature and human weaknesses and things that affect all of us and sometimes we really can't control," Kluge asserted.

"It's easy to understand how these types of things can occur," he continued. "It doesn't justify it. And I know that Aaron realizes how this has destroyed his life.

In his statement, Burns said, "We ask for the community's prayers on behalf of the young woman, Mr. Rediger's family and the families who have been affected by these crimes."