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Tag: Common Ground Biker Church Meridian

Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Bret Welty Pleads Guilty to Sexually Molesting Teen Girl

bret welty

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 2019, Bret Welty was formerly a sound tech at Calvary Chapel in Boise, a pastor at Common Ground Biker Church in Meridian, and currently the pastor of Hard Rock Revival Church (a home church) in Boise, and the operator of Sound Harvest (all in Idaho) — a business that set up audio equipment for churches and events. (According to Linkedin, Sound Harvest was owned by Michelle Welty.) Welty also sold real estate.

Hard Rock Revival Church described itself this way:

We are a new church with old roots!  Doing our best to recapture and revitalize Jesus’ mission here in Boise.  We have started off as a home based church and plan to grow as the Lord ads [sic] to us and we would love to serve you and your family.  Our Pastors Bret and Kelly Welty have served as ministers and Worship Leaders for over 30 years and worship is a center point here at Hard Rock Revival.  So is connecting people with Jesus and God’s word!  We endeavor to give our utmost towards raising up God’s people to be active, healthy, and loving people who want to make a difference in this crazy world.

In August 2019, Welty was charged with “sexual abuse of a minor younger than 16 years old, and lewd conduct with a minor younger than 16 years old.”

The Idaho Press reported:

One of the members of his congregation was a 15-year-old girl who was having family troubles and living with anxiety. The family felt it might help her to spend a weekend at the Welty household, where Welty lived with his wife, 15-year-old son, and 24-year-old stepdaughter. She was at the home Aug. 9.

Police and prosecutors say that night Welty entered her room and touched her inappropriately. He continued to touch her for between 30 minutes and an hour, until he was interrupted by his wife, Fouts explained in court.

“The defendant confessed to his conduct,” Fouts said. “He stated that he’d struggled with such behavior before, although not with victims of this age, this young age.”

Fouts asked Magistrate Judge Michael Lojek to set Welty’s bail at $350,000. Smith asked for far less.

“He’s been a pillar of…various churches that he was ministering at, and I would just ask the court to set bond at $25,000,” Smith said.

Lojek set Welty’s bond at $250,000. He also ordered Welty stop ministering, until given permission from the court “so as to protect any other…vulnerable potential victims he may come into contact with in that capacity.”

Lojek said he considered the nature of the relationship between Welty and the girl. It was unique, given that he was her pastor, and the pastor for the rest of her family. He issued two no contact orders in the case, barring Welty from having contact with the girl, as well as with her father.

Matthew Fouts, of the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, stated “The defendant confessed to his conduct. He stated that he’d struggled with such behavior before, although not with victims of this age, this young age.” This tells me that there is likely more to this story than has been reported. I suspect there are more victims.

Bret Welty was also a musician. His bio page stated:

Bret Welty is a blues rock singer, songwriter, and guitar player with an inspired approach to blending the soul of blues with a variety of musical genres. Bret has been playing in bands for over 25 years, in a variety of roles.

Born in California and raised on a variety of music, Bret spent his formative high school years split evenly between Oregon and later California, where he was exposed to blues and rock. “The first time I heard guitar and blues put together, I was hooked,” Bret explains. As a young man, Bret tried his hand at 11 instruments before settling on the guitar. He received his first real guitar at age 15, and by the summer he had saved up enough money to buy his first electric guitar. Within 6 months, he was in his first band, and his love of performing live grew from there. Bret studied jazz in college, and has worked as a guitar teacher and faith music leader.

A true musician in every sense of the word, Bret plays drums, bass, lead guitar and mandolin. He has played all over the Northwest at both intimate and large venues, including state fairs and music festivals. Bret has played shows with Daryl Mansfield and has performed with Dennis Agajanian in concert.

Bret will release his album in 2014 “Unlimited Edition” a collection of rock and blues originals, is due to be released August 23rd 2014. It features a song dedicated to wounded service men and women whohave been hurt in the service of our country.  Coves of Bill Withers and the Marshal Tucker band can be found on this release.

Blues is at the heart of Bret’s music, but listeners will also enjoy elements of jazz, rock, funk, Latin, R&B, southern rock, and country. His albums feature original song writing and topics that listeners can easily identify with: love lost, hard times, triumph, freedom, and patriotism.

In December 2019, Welty pleaded guilty to molesting the girl:

A Boise man who ran a church out of his home has pleaded guilty to molesting a teenage girl whose parents had asked him to help her with her anxiety. 

Bret Welty, 48, admitted to sexual abuse of a minor Dec. 4 as part of a plea deal in which prosecutors dropped a charge of lewd conduct with a child.

Welty was the pastor of the now-defunct Hard Rock Revival Church, which was attended by both the 15-year-old victim and her parents. Prosecutor Erin Pittenger said in court the sexual abuse happened Aug. 9, after the girl’s parents had sent their daughter to stay at Welty’s home for the weekend. 

“The reason for having the victim stay with the defendant and his family is that she was suffering from some anxiety issues, and her family believed that a weekend with the pastor and his family would help,” Pittenger said.

According to prosecutors, the teen was in a bedroom when Welty walked into the room, refused to leave, and had the girl undress under the guise of giving her a massage. Pittenger said Welty touched the girl sexually for between 30 minutes and an hour, only stopping when his wife knocked on the bedroom door, interrupting the assault. 

Welty later admitted to abusing the girl during a recorded phone call, and told her not to tell anyone about what had happened.

Welty’s wife filed for divorce the month after his arrest. At his plea hearing, Welty told the judge he had decided “early on” to admit guilt in the case. 

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will ask for a 15-year prison sentence, with three years before Welty could be eligible for parole. The judge ordered him to undergo a psychosexual evaluation before his Feb. 11 sentencing. 

If evaluators determine Welty is a low risk to re-offend, prosecutors will consider recommending the rider program, which could drastically reduce Welty’s time behind bars.

The defendant’s attorney, Jeffrey Smith, asked the judge to reduce Welty’s bond, noting that his client had been held in the Ada County Jail on a $250,000 bond since his arrest in August.

mith asked for the bond to be dropped to $20,000 or $25,000 instead, arguing that release from jail would enable Welty to care for his mother after a major surgery and get back to his work of scheduling and performing music. 

His lawyer said those shows would either be held locally “or within a couple hundred miles of Boise,” and that Welty would not leave the state unless given permission by the court.

Smith also pointed to Welty’s volunteer work, which included leading youth groups, coaching children’s sports teams, and teaching music at both middle and high schools “to thousands of students during his time here in Boise.”

Since his arrest, Welty has also started a Bible study for other inmates in the Ada County Jail, his lawyer said.

In his argument for the bond reduction, Smith described Welty’s sexual abuse of the 15-year-old as “a one-time occasion,” and asked Judge Deborah Bail to take into consideration that Welty has a very minimal criminal history.

“He’s basically crime-free,” Smith said. 

“Well, that’s fine, but he just pled guilty to a major felony,” Bail responded. 

The judge rejected the motion to lower Welty’s bond, telling him she was concerned about his access to minors. 

“He appears to me to have quite a lot of access to children, with a position that would make parents likely to drop their guard, because one would expect that a person in that role would be a safe person for one’s child to be around,” she said. 

Bail added that she wanted to see the results of Welty’s psychosexual evaluation before she would weigh in on whether he could be safely out of custody, and reminded him again that he had just admitted to a significant crime. 

“It’s a serious invasion of a person’s personal space and an extraordinary breach of trust,” she said. “I’m not changing anything until I know what’s going on.”

In October 2020, Welty was sentenced to up to twelve years in prison.

The Idaho Press reported:

The Idaho man who ran his own church and pleaded guilty to lewd conduct with a 15-year-old girl last year will spend at least three years in prison.

A judge on Monday sentenced Bret Welty, 49, to up to 12 years in prison after Welty in December pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor younger than 16 years old.

Welty is now out on parole.

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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Bruce Gerencser