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.
Robert Lazzell, a former school principal and deacon at First Baptist Church in Danville, Illinois, pleaded guilty to sexual assault and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. According to the Blue Shirt Coalition — a group of school alumni and friends:
Lazzell is the third prominent former staff member to be charged with sexual crimes against minors since the late 90s.
Lazzell also worked for Maranatha Baptist University in Watertown, Wisconsin.
Former First Baptist Church of Danville School Principal and Church Deacon Robert Lazzell has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to Criminal Sexual Assault against former student Michael Young.
The sentence was handed down by Associate Judge Derek J. Girton Tuesday (Aug 1st) morning, after a sentencing hearing in front of a standing room crowd in courtroom 3B. The speakers included Michael Young, and his mother and grandmother; all calling for the maximum sentence of 15 years. The defense asked for the minimum of four years.
Young, now 26, stated that the grooming, abuse, and sexual assault, and threats and bribery and efforts to isolate him from his family all began when he was an 8th grader; and that the harassment of him by Lazzell continued when he went away to college in Florida, with Lazzell trying to convince him to come to Maranatha Baptist in Wisconsin where he had gone to work.
Although the defense claimed a psychosexual examination of Lazzell claimed he was low risk for recidivism, Judge Girton looked at Lazzell prior to sentencing him and said that based on the evidence heard, the testimony given, and the pattern of his behavior towards Young for many years, he did not trust him.
The fourth person who spoke at the hearing for the prosecution was a long time friend of Young’s, as well as also a former First Baptist Church member and school student, Kate Gibson. She said after the sentencing that for students like Young and herself; that church was their entire world.
The 50-year-old Lazzell will be required to serve 85% of his 12 year sentence.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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