Pastor who had sex with 16-year-old parishioner seeks reduced sentence
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org March 20, 2014 7:38PM
Updated: April 22, 2014 6:42AM
Jack Schaap, the former pastor at the First Baptist Church of Hammond megachurch, wants his 12-year sentence for having sex with a 16-year-old parishioner tossed, claiming he had bad representation from his attorneys.
Schaap, acting as his own attorney, on Thursday filed in U.S. District Court in Hammond a motion to vacate U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano’s March 20, 2013, sentence. Schaap claims his attorneys, Paul Stracci and Alison Benjamin, told him the maximum sentence he would receive would be 10 years in prison but that his sentence would more likely be three to four years or possibly as few as 18 months.
However, the charge he pleaded guilty to, causing his victim to be taken across state lines for sex, came with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. His plea deal called for a 10-year sentence, and he agreed there were no grounds for a lower sentence.
The plea deal was filed Sept. 19, 2012, the same day prosecutors filed the case against him, which accused him of using his position with the church to have employees take the girl, who was also a student in the church’s school, to Illinois and Michigan that summer so they could be alone. He would later plead guilty after the judge took him through each paragraph of the section of the plea dealing with the specifics of his agreement with prosecutors, including the recommendation of a 10-year sentence. The judge also quizzed him about whether anyone had promised him a different sentence and stressed that Lozano had the final say on any sentence.
Schaap’s motion claimed, however, that one of his attorneys expressed concern to the federal attorney handling the case just before Schaap’s change of plea hearing that there was not a binding agreement on the 10-year recommendation.
He continues to admit in his motion that he had sex with the girl in Illinois, Michigan and Indiana, that a school employee discovered photos of the two in sexual positions and that Schaap later downloaded a program to try and delete their text messages.
However, Schaap, who is 56, argues that Stracci and Benjamin should have argued that his sentence should be mitigated because the victim had prior sexual experience and what he called her “aggressiveness.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster argued during sentencing that Schaap took advantage of the girl, who was in a poor emotional state at the time and had been advised by other school and church employees to place all her trust in Schaap, who also served as the school’s principal and her counselor.
Schaap, who is being held at the Federal Correctional Institute in Ashland, Ky., says in his motion that he is working to obtain legal representation.