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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor James Johnson Enters Alford Plea on Sexual Battery Charges

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James Johnson, associate pastor of Mountain Valley Baptist Church in Martinsville, Virginia, was convicted and sentenced to eleven years in prison for sexual battery and distributing child pornography.

Paul Collins, a writer for the Martinsville Reporter, reports:

A former Henry County associate pastor will spend 11 years in prison, as his sentence in a child pornography case.

James Arthur Johnson, who had previously served as associate pastor at Mountain Valley Baptist Church, had been convicted June 30 of the charges, including four counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of distributing child pornography. At the time, the 58-year-old entered an Alford plea in Martinsville Circuit Court. In an Alford plea, a defendant maintains his innocence but admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution likely could convince a judge or jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution nolle prossed (dropped but could reinstate) five other charges of aggravated sexual battery against Johnson at that time.

The charges stem from incidents that took place between April 2014 and February 2015 at Johnson’s residence in the 200 block of Martinsville and then in the 200 block of Pine Street, after he moved. The victim, who was 12 to 13 years old at the time, said Johnson would inappropriately touch her when she visited his house. Johnson was a friend of the girl’s family and their neighbor for part of that time. Johnson would also have neighborhood boys visit him at times and, according to the testimony, would instruct them to inappropriately touch the girl as well. The girl testified that at the time, Johnson said he would hurt her if she told anyone what was going on.

Johnson also filmed the girl touching herself and then showed the video to another person between Jan. 1, 2015 and July 28, 2015.

During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, the victim, now 16, read a letter she wrote about how she had been traumatized and suffered some mental health issues. She said she knows now not to trust people like Johnson and added that she hopes he burns in hell.

Keith Fender, testifying as an expert in sexual offender treatment, said one concern he had when evaluating Johnson is that the man is not convinced he needs treatment. The evaluation, Fender said, showed that Johnson has pedophilic disorder. That refers to adults who have a sexual desire for young children.

Johnson’s lawyer, Roscoe Reynolds, called several people who testified as character witnesses for his client. They described Johnson as a good worker, reliable, of good conduct to their knowledge, someone who helped and encouraged other people, active in church and preached in nursing homes. Several of the witnesses said they were shocked to learn of the charges against him. Johnson’s sister also testified, saying that he has some serious health issues and asked the judge to take that into consideration. Prior to this case, Johnson also had no criminal record.

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Greer sentenced Johnson to 85 years in prison, with 74 of those suspended under conditions including indefinite supervised probation and good behavior for life. Greer also ordered Johnson to register as a sex offender upon release from incarceration.

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