Legal Loophole Helps Priest Avoid Prison

Photo Credits: Ebi Okeng Attorneys Inc

Paul Jason Brothers of Ohio — a preacher at North Mt. Zion Church of God in Hiawassee — was accused of raping and molesting a 14-year-old girl in 2012; he was indicted in 2013. He assaulted her when he was staying as a guest in her family’s home while he was preaching at the church.  According to court records, Brothers sexually assaulted the teen when she got up to get a glass of water in the middle of the night, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reports.

Brothers was sentenced for molesting children, but his punishment involves no prison time even though he admitted to two counts of felony sexual battery on a minor. His attorney, Republican House Speaker David Ralston, used a legal loophole that allowed him to delay the trial as many times as he wanted as long as he was on state business. Ralston used this option at least eight times which prolonged the case for more than six years. By the time a jury had chance to hear the victim's story she was a 21-year-old woman. The victim tried to recall what happened a long time ago (and other witnesses had the same problem) so the delay tactics worked.

Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeff Langley said a plea deal for 10 years on probation was the best thing he could do for the victim after the repeated delays in the case. Langley said the case against Brothers would have been much stronger had it been tried three years ago or more.

“The jury sees a 21-year-old woman, not that 14-year-old victim,” Langley said, as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. “We were relying on witnesses remembering something that happened in 2012. That makes it difficult on prosecutors. It raises all those questions about how clear are memories.”

Ralston was campaigning and raising money for his re-election and those were some of the reasons why he couldn't attend the trial. He used this tactic not only in this case but in many others where he was appointed as attorney. Luckily the law that allowed attorney-lawmakers to delay court appearances has since been amended. Now judges can deny legislative leave delays through a four-part test looking at the nature of the legislative duties and how much the delay would affect the case. But in Brother's case the old law allowed the attorney to take advantage of it.

His attorney succeeded in delaying the trial and helped him get away with a light sentence, but the consequences of Brothers' misconduct remain. “Someone I knew and trusted invaded my body and soul,” the now-21-year-old victim said in court, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “and in the process tearing me apart … Some days, I don’t even recognize myself or the person I have become as this trauma has shaped me into someone else.” The victim’s family had to agree with the plea deal because the victim, with her health issues and trauma, had a problem with handling a trial or a possible litany of appeals.

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