The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
In June 2020, Robert Shiflet, a youth pastor at Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas from 1997-2002, was arrested and charged with child sex trafficking. Shiflet also worked at Liberty Christian School in Argyle from 2008 to 2010.
The Denton Record-Chronicle reported at the time:
A former Denton youth pastor who pleaded guilty on charges related to child sex trafficking will be sentenced in federal court on May 19 , court records show.
Robert Shiflet, a Denton man, was arrested in June on four charges related to child sex trafficking. Shiflet initially pleaded not guilty to the four charges but later changed his plea to guilty on two charges of transporting minors across state lines for sexual activity. The other two charges were dismissed.
The incidents date back from 1997 to 2002, which overlapped with his time at Denton Bible Church. Authorities said he worked as a youth pastor in Little Rock, Arkansas during the time of the incidents and then later moved to Denton. He also worked at Liberty Christian School in Argyle from 2008 to 2010.
Shiflet changed his plea to guilty on Nov. 30. The penalty for transporting minors across state lines for sexual activity is up to 15 years in prison and up to three years of supervised release.
According to court documents, both parties agreed to a sentence of 27 to 33 months on each count to run concurrently, although the court can still determine the appropriate sentence. Shiflet would have to register as a sex offender upon release.
In 2021, Shiflet was sentenced to only 33 months in prison. The Denton Record-Chronicle reports:
A former Denton youth pastor has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for crimes related to child sex trafficking from two decades ago.
Robert Shiflet, 51, was ordered Tuesday to serve 33 months in federal prison and must remain under federal supervision for the rest of his life once he’s released. Shiflet was indicted last year on charges relating to child sex trafficking and pleaded guilty in November 2020 to two of the charges.
“So I’m going to accept the plea agreement but not in any way, shape or form having anything to do with you or anything anybody has said positive about you,” U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky said in court, reported by the Democrat-Gazette. “But for them because they deserve some justice, even if it’s not the justice they or society should get completely.”
The newspaper reported the judge accepted the deal to help victims get some justice. The three victims at court Tuesday told the judge they would testify if the case moved to a jury trial, but said they preferred the 33-month sentence rather than risk a jury acquitting Shiflet.
“Thirty-three months is not justice but reading between the lines I have to believe the government has some concerns about this case if it went to the jury,” Rudofsky said. “I have a feeling that although these women have all said they would testify — which makes them more brave than you are on a single day of your life — they don’t want to and they want this to be done and that they are scared if this case goes to trial you will get off completely.”
According to the Democrat-Gazette, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Bryant said the potential guideline sentence may have been miscalculated, leading to the range of 27 to 33 months in the plea agreement to be so far under the guidelines.
“Unfortunately, we were wrong, but that was the agreement we reached based upon our understanding at that time,” Bryant said.
Federal authorities said Shiflet worked as a youth pastor in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the case was filed, at the time of the incidents before moving to Denton.
Shiflet was indicted on three counts of transporting minors across state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity and one count of coercing a minor to cross state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity. He pleaded not guilty in June 2020 but later reversed his plea in November 2020 to guilty of two counts of transporting.
“This defendant took advantage of his position of trust as a mentor to young people and instead used his power to isolate and sexually abuse them,” U.S. Attorney Hiland said in a news release at the time of the guilty plea. “This predatory behavior is never acceptable, but it is particularly disturbing when the offender is a youth pastor. Our office will continue to aggressively pursue those who commit these deplorable crimes.”
According to authorities, Shiflet led a group of eighth graders in May 1997 on a camping trip to Arkansas where he was able to isolate a 15-year-old girl and sexually assault her, telling her not to tell anyone. Shiflet was 27 years old at the time and a youth pastor in Denton.
A 16-year-old girl reported that in 2002 that Shiflet, her youth pastor in Little Rock at the time, “engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with her.” One of the incidents was in the summer where he, 32 years old at the time, sexually assaulted her on a charter bus to Florida while on a youth group trip.
I said at the time, “yet another Evangelical pastor who escapes the full brunt of the law for his heinous crimes.” Adding insult to injury, Shiflet was released early from prison for good behavior.
The youth pastor found to have sexually abused 14 girls at Denton Bible Church and another church in Little Rock, Arkansas was released from prison early for good behavior.
Robert Shiflet was released from prison on January 11, 2023, after serving 25 months behind bars for repeatedly sexually assaulting two girls.
In June 2021, a federal judge sentenced Shiflet to 33 months in prison, as part of a plea agreement. At the time, the judge lamented the agreement was not for a longer prison term.
Shiflet’s victims say they did not receive notice of his early release from the U.S. Department of Justice for more than six weeks.
An email to the victims said that advance notice of his release was not possible because it was “immediate, and/or unexpected.”
Shiflet, 52, is now living in Weatherford, Texas where he is required to register as a sex offender. He will also be under supervision for life.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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Christ practiced and preached the opposite of what enables the most horrible acts of human cruelty to occur on this planet. Sadly, sometimes those atrocious acts are allowed to remain a buried secret.
Intense trauma from unchecked toxic abuse, sexual or otherwise, usually results in a helpless child’s brain improperly developing.
If allowed to continue for a prolonged period, it can act as a starting point into a life in which the brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines.
It has been described as a continuous, discomforting anticipation of ‘the other shoe dropping’ and simultaneously being scared of how badly you will deal with the upsetting event, which usually never transpires.
Thus, such holy-men and their apologists make horrendous examples of Christ’s fundamental message of compassion and charity. Jesus must be spinning in heaven knowing what atrocities have been connected to Christ-ianity.
FGSJR–What you say about the effects of trauma is indeed corroborated by research in neuroscience. I don’t understand, however, how Christianity–even whatever kind is an example of Christ’s message of compassion and charity, as you say–is an antidote or even a palliative.