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Tag: Failure to Report

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jared Olivetti Accused of Not Reporting Sex Crimes

pastor jared olivetti

Jared, Olivetti, the pastor of Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church in West Lafayette, Indiana has been put on temporary leaving pending an ecclesiastical investigation of his lack of urgency in responding to inappropriate behavior and sexual offenses by a boy at the church. As of today, Olivetti has not been charged with a crime (but he damn well should be). Immanuel Reformed is affiliated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America — a Fundamentalist sect.

The Indianapolis Star reports:

Jared Olivetti, the West Lafayette pastor accused of mishandling the response to sexual abuse involving minors in his congregation, has been placed on leave effective immediately, pending the results of an ecclesiastical trial.

Olivetti and the 2020 elder board of the Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church were the subject of a December IndyStar investigation, which found they failed to act with urgency in responding to inappropriate behavior and sexual offenses by a boy at the church.

The boy is a relative of Olivetti. Rather than immediately recuse himself, IndyStar found Olivetti took advantage of his position as a leader to interfere with the church’s response.

….

Olivetti’s leave was announced to the denomination Thursday afternoon in a letter from the Synod Judicial Commission, a copy of which was obtained by IndyStar. The Synod, which is the national governing body in the Reformed Presbyterian denomination, is currently overseeing the investigation into Olivetti and his fellow elders.

The religious charges against Olivetti were accepted by the commission late last year, but the decision to place him on leave wasn’t announced until Thursday. As of Jan. 2, Olivetti was still preaching at Immanuel.

….

In accordance with the denomination’s Book of Discipline, Olivetti is required to “refrain from the exercise of office of teaching elder until the judicial process is complete,” the commission announced Thursday. 

“By imposing this requirement,” the letter says, “the SJC in no way pre-judges the case, but acknowledges the gravity of the accusations against Mr. Olivetti.”

….

Also facing ecclesiastical charges are elders Keith Magill, Ben Larson and David Carr. Charges have been dropped against former Immanuel elders Nate Pfeiffer and Zachary Blackwood, who resigned their posts following an investigation at the Presbytery level last year.

Church records indicate the sexual abuse  — which involved eight children from multiple families within the congregation — occurred on and off church property between spring 2019 and March 2020. Parents told IndyStar the children reported over- and under-clothes touching, oral-genital contact and penetration.

In addition to Olivetti’s clear conflict of interest, several people close to the situation told IndyStar the church’s elders chose to publicly minimize the nature of the incidents and protected their pastor over the congregation’s children.

In a July 2020 meeting, Olivetti told the pastor of a neighboring church he and his elder board were going to hide the allegations from higher authorities in the denomination.

“We’re not sending a report up,” Olivetti said during the conversation, an audio recording of which was obtained by IndyStar. “It’s not going to be in our regular session minutes. It’s going to be in a different (record).”

Last summer, the boy was found by a juvenile judge to be delinquent on what would be multiple felony counts of child molesting if he had been charged as an adult.

An ecclesiastical judicial commission, convened in late 2020, investigated the actions taken by Olivetti and the other elders and presented their findings to Presbytery in March 2021. IndyStar was provided with a copy of this report, which the Presbytery has not made public. Its findings included: 

Olivetti used “undue, excessive, or improper” influence to shape the church’s response. 

Conflicts of interest were “not understood, ignored — or worse veiled.”  

Church leaders committed a series of failures “to protect and provide the safety” of those in their charge. 

Leaders did not respond with urgency “fitting the gravity of the circumstances.”  

Elders failed to remove Olivetti from all discussions and decisions despite giving the impression he had been recused. 

Charges presented by those investigators were not accepted by the Presbytery. A second commission has since been convened — the Synod judicial commission — and accepted charges against Olivetti, Magill, Larson and Carr late last year. The exact wording and nature of those charges is unknown.

In preliminary meetings, the defense asked the Synod judicial commission to vacate all charges and nullify the investigation, according to the letter, a request the commission denied.

“The SJC determined that the denial of judicial process was unfair to all — accusers and accused alike,” the commission wrote. “A full, fair, and impartial opportunity to fully ‘address this matter’ is necessary to bring it to completion.”

The Indianapolis Star story ends with this statement:

Indiana law requires any adult who suspects a child is being abused or neglected to report those suspicions to law enforcement or the Indiana Department of Child Services.

And this is why Olivetti and his fellow elders should be arrested and charged with failure to report. Unfortunately, until prosecutors and law enforcement arrest and prosecute clerics who disobey reporting laws, this kind of behavior will continue. Based on the above news report, Olivetti broke the law and he should be made to pay for his crimes. It’s really that simple.

I don’t typically make long excerpts from news articles, but the following story in the Indianapolis Star gives important context to this story and why Olivetti should be prosecuted:

From the pulpit, Pastor Jared Olivetti issued a warning.

In his Nov. 8, 2020, sermon, he cautioned the congregation at Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church against religious authorities who might cause them harm by abusing their power.  

“We are in danger, Lord, and we don’t always realize it; we don’t always wrestle with that,” Olivetti said. “So, we pray that you would protect us. 

“Lord, we pray that you would protect this particular congregation from me, from anything I might say or do that would detract from the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 

Months before he delivered that sermon, it was revealed to leaders at the West Lafayette church that children from multiple families had been abused and harassed by another minor within the congregation, according to internal church documents obtained by IndyStar. Olivetti and his fellow elders kept the abuse from church members for more than four months, even as they learned of additional transgressions.

The perpetrator, a teenage boy, is a relative of the pastor. Rather than immediately recuse himself, IndyStar found Olivetti continued to shape the church’s response, taking advantage of his position as a leader to interfere with the investigation.  

Furthermore, several people close to the situation told IndyStar they believe the other elders chose to publicly minimize the abuse and protect their pastor over the congregation’s children. 

“They did not care about us,” the mother in one victim’s family told IndyStar. 

The incidents occurred on and off church property between spring 2019 and March 2020, church records indicate. Parents told IndyStar the children reported over- and under-clothes touching, oral-genital contact, and penetration.

Olivetti and the members of the 2020 Immanuel elder board did not comment for this article.  

In a July 2020 meeting, Olivetti told the pastor of a neighboring church he and his elder board – referred to as the session – were going to hide the allegations from higher authorities in the denomination. While session notes would typically be shared with the Presbytery each year, notes pertaining to these incidents, Olivetti said, would not be. 

“We’re not sending a report up,” Olivetti said during the conversation, an audio recording of which was obtained by IndyStar. “It’s not going to be in our regular session minutes. It’s going to be in a different (record).” 

The children at the church are not the only known victims.  

An order entered in a Tippecanoe County juvenile court shows investigators identified as many as 15, although it’s unclear whether all eight church victims are reflected in that total and how many are from outside the congregation. The documents also present an inconsistent timeline of their abuse, saying at various points that the abuse ended in March or April 2020 and in another that the acts continued into January 2021.

In July of this year, the boy was found by a juvenile judge to be delinquent on what would be multiple felony counts of child molesting and was remanded to a residential facility. 

….

Documents and recordings obtained by IndyStar demonstrate a lack of urgency in notifying the congregation of the abuse, a failure to consistently enforce child safety measures and undue influence exerted by Olivetti.  

In one case, the elders knowingly failed to inform a family the boy had confessed to intentionally touching their child below the waist without their consent, according to internal church records. The child’s family didn’t learn of the incident until seven months after the boy’s admission. 

IndyStar has spoken to multiple people close to the situation – including multiple victim families – and reviewed court documents, official church reports and letters written in support of Olivetti and the elders by current congregants. 

Joshua Bright, a former deacon who resigned and left the church last December, told IndyStar the Immanuel session’s actions have skewed perceptions of the harm done. 

“Probably the biggest impact is spinning out a narrative that portrays (Olivetti) as a person who has been harmed and abused by what’s gone on in the church,” Bright said, “as opposed to (being) the person who has caused it.” 

….

Allegations of abusive behavior were brought to Olivetti in October 2019, according to the judicial commission report, when the boy was seen reaching down the back of a child’s pants, and again when he propositioned and touched the chest of another child. In both of those instances, the investigators were told the families involved worked through their issues privately.  

In April 2020, another family reported abuse. According to the judicial commission report, they attempted to work through the situation with Olivetti while also reporting to the Indiana Department of Child Services. 

Months later, in August 2020, the boy told elders he had inappropriate interactions with children in at least two other families, including a child he had intentionally touched below the waist — above their clothing — without their consent. 

Multiple sources, including the judicial commission report, indicate DCS was informed of and, in some cases, substantiated the allegations against the boy. However, it’s unknown when those reports were made in relation to their discovery — Indiana law requires immediate reporting to law enforcement or Child Services. A DCS spokeswoman declined to comment when reached by IndyStar, citing the state’s confidentiality laws. 

Joshua Greiner, a pastor at Faith Church West who that spring was providing biblical counseling to one of the Immanuel victim families, first learned of Olivetti’s connection to the perpetrator in late July 2020, around the time he began to encourage the family to return to their home church for ongoing care.

Following that disclosure by the family he was counseling, Greiner and Olivetti met to discuss how to move forward. 

IndyStar has obtained and reviewed Greiner’srecording of their nearly 90-minute conversation. It was during that meeting that Olivetti said the Presbytery wouldn’t immediately intervene, that only some session members were fully aware of the situation, and they would be keeping off-book notes regarding the investigation. 

….

During this time, while the congregation was being assured proper measures were being taken, some of the victim families struggled to make sense of the situation.  

The April 2020 case that had been reported to DCS was found to be unsubstantiated, according to the judicial commission report, despite both families acknowledging to one another the abuse had occurred. 

During his July 2020 conversation with Greiner, the Faith pastor, Olivetti said the case had been unsubstantiated because DCS was “satisfied” with the safety precautions taken. This is not how DCS defines substantiation, which determines whether a preponderance of evidence exists to support the allegations. (A second case was opened in December, after additional information was reported to the agency, and was substantiated, according to the report.) 

But even questioning Olivetti’s actions would have been frowned upon within the congregation, the mother in one victim family told IndyStar. 

“He was this, like, know-all,” she said, “or this sense of God.” 

In November, when one victim family approached leadership with concerns that youth group parents had not been informed of the situation, the session said they didn’t believe it was necessary to do so. 

“We simply cannot protect everybody from every conceivable physical danger,” they wrote, according to the judicial commission report. “If we are to believe the statistics, it is likely there are unknown abusers present at most church activities. The way to protect against these dangers is simply to be vigilant and teach kids about what is appropriate and inappropriate.” 

Also that month, according to the report, a victim family reached out to the elders to ensure a family that had recently left the church had been informed of the situation.

“I have not talked with them yet,” Pfeiffer told Blackwood in a Slack message, according to the report. “I’m still not clear why they’re pushing that so much. I’ll do it at some point.” 

The mother in one victim family said her family chose to leave the church after it was clear Olivetti and the elders were protecting themselves instead of the children. 

“When we go to church, we are supposed to feel safe,” she said, “and we didn’t feel safe anymore.” 

However, not all families involved felt the session acted inappropriately. The father in one family told IndyStar he believes the elders acted in good faith.

“Our family affirms the care and love and shepherding of our elders,” he wrote to IndyStar in an email. “We were treated with tenderness, care, compassion, love and respect.”

Furthermore, he believes the judicial commission report was not representative of his family’s experience and that their story is “being used to support a narrative that (they) do not agree with.”

“We grieve the events that occurred among minors in our church yet this sadness has been compounded by the accusations on the elders,” he wrote. He continued: “The people bringing these allegations have hijacked our story and are using it in ways that we don’t approve of and have not given consent to.”

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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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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Victor Trevino, Sr. Sentenced for Failing to Report Child Abuse

victor trevino sr

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.

Victor Trevino, Sr, pastor of The Bread House South in Lansing, Michigan, was sentenced to eighty hours of community service for failing to report child abuse allegedly perpetrated by his youth pastor son, Trevino, Jr.

WILX-10 reports:

Victor Trevino Sr. was sentenced Thursday to 80 hours of community service for not reporting the abuse allegedly done by his son.

Trevino Jr. is a youth pastor at the Bread House South church. Prosecutors say he had inappropriate contact with a minor between 13 and 16 years old.

He faces nine charges, including four counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of child sexually abusive activity, one count of accosting a child for immoral purposes and two counts of using a computer to commit a crime.

He’s also charged with five counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a child under 13 years old and one count of second-degree criminal sexual assault in a different case.

Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for Trevino said, “Pastor Trevino is committed to performing the community service ordered today and offers prayers of healing and strength for all involved.”

Trevino Sr. pleaded guilty in August to the misdemeanor and must also pay $400 in fines and costs, said Scott Hughes, an Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman.

The good pastor “offers prayers of healing and strength for all involved.” Really? How about reporting allegations of sexual abuse the moment you hear of them? How about protecting the children in your church? While it is refreshing to see a pastor prosecuted for failing to report, I am not sure a $400 fine and eighty hours of community service fit the crime. Just once, I would like to see an offending pastor do actual jail time for failing to report abuse. In Trevino Sr’s case, once he completes his community service hours and pays his fine, it is likely charges will be dismissed. Can’t do anything to besmirch the character of a man of God, right? I wonder if The Bread House South and its denomination will discipline Trevino, Sr. for his sin? Lest everyone involved forgets, the Bible says in James 4:17:

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Trevino, Sr. knew to “do good” and did it not. God calls that sin. I call it a gross abrogation of personal responsibility for church children.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Howard Geck Arrested for Failing to Report Child Abuse

dexter hensley

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 May 2019, Dexter Hensley, a member of Jasper Apostolic United Pentecostal Church in Jasper, Indiana, was arrested and charged with inappropriately touching minor children, ages 5-9. The Dubois County Free Press reported at the time:

Dexter Hensley, 61, is charged with allegedly touching children inappropriately. The incidents allegedly occurred at the Jasper Apostolic Church — the Jasper Christian Academy is also located at that address –sometime between 2012 and 2015. The victims were between 5 and 9 years old at the time of the incidents.

Hensley was arrested Monday; his home address in the court documents was listed as the church’s address on Hillside Drive in Jasper.

Court documents indicated Pastor Howard Geck at Jasper Apostolic Church found out about the alleged actions after they occurred.

An investigation into Hensley was opened while police were investigating a different allegation. During a forensic interview, the victim revealed incidents that had occurred at the church five to six years ago involving Hensley.

The victim also told police that about two years ago she had learned about incidents involving her sisters and had taken those concerns to her guardian. Court documents indicated the guardian reported the victim’s allegations to Geck at the church and was told that the issue had been taken care of.

Police spoke with the guardian, who stated the issue had been reported to the pastor, according to court documents.

Today’s news brings a not-so-shocking story about Howard Geck, pastor of Jasper Apostolic. Authorities allege that Geck was told about Hensley’s abhorrent behavior and did nothing. By Indiana law, “anyone who has reason to believe a child has been abused must report it to law enforcement or DCS.”  Geck allegedly kept Hensley’s crimes to himself, and now he finds himself facing a class B misdemeanor — failure to report.

Channel 14 News reports:

Jasper Police say they learned Pastor Howard Geck was made aware of the allegations two-years ago, but failed to report them to authorities.

Geck was charged this week with failure to make a report, which is a class B misdemeanor. By Indiana law, anyone who has reason to believe a child has been abused must report it to law enforcement or DCS.

“The law requires that any individual, anyone, it’s not confined to teachers or pastors or doctors,” explains Dubois County Deputy Prosecutor Stephanie Smith. “It is any adult that has a reasonable suspicion that there’s been some kind of abuse. Whether it’s physical abuse, or sexual abuse, or neglect of a child needs to report it.”

The Dubois County Prosecutors Office is currently offering an amnesty program. From now until the end of July, anyone who has previously failed to report, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have happened, can do so without being charged.

I have long argued that one of the firsts steps authorities should take in combatting child abuse is to arrest AND prosecute clergymen who failed to report allegations of abuse. When preachers face the likelihood of criminal prosecution, jail time, and loss of reputation, maybe, just maybe, they will do the right thing. It is unlikely that the good pastor will spend any time in the pokey, but perhaps the Dubois County prosecutor’s shot across the bow is enough to put fear into the hearts of local preachers. I have no doubt that Geck is not the only preacher sitting on allegations and confessions of sexual misconduct.  It’s time to air the dirty laundry in Dubois County, Indiana.

Bruce Gerencser