News: Mancon

PERRY — A former Hawkinsville pastor was sentenced to 30 years in prison Friday for having sex with an underage teen he met at his church.

Terrance King, 34, was convicted Thursday of statutory rape, aggravated child molestation and enticing a child for indecent purposes. The Houston County jury in the case deliberated less than an hour in reaching its verdict.

King, who was the pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church for about three years, took the then-15-year-old ninth-grader to a Perry hotel Nov. 13, 2012, and had sex with her.

Superior Court Judge Edward D. Lukemire also sentenced King to life on probation after he’s released from prison. The judge also banished King from Houston County and ordered him to have no contact with the victim or her family, even if King later chose to write a letter of apology.

Lukemire characterized King’s actions as “especially onerous” because King was a pastor. The judge expanded on a prosecutor’s statement to jurors that King was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

“You were a wolf in shepherd’s clothing,” Lukemire told him.

Lukemire noted that King betrayed trust in his position of influence as the spiritual leader of his congregation, and that his position gave him more sway over a young girl than someone in another position of influence might have, such as a teacher.

“It’s just disgusting,” the judge said.

Before handing down the sentence, the judge heard from the teen’s mother, King’s mother and prosecution and defense attorneys.

The girl’s mother told the judge that King was a highly respected leader and teacher who took something precious from her daughter by betraying his position of trust and preying on her. She said her daughter thinks she’s in love with King. The mother said she’ll have to teach her daughter what real love is as the teen comes to terms with King’s actions.

The mother also noted that the pastor not only scandalized her daughter and family but also the church and the Hawkinsville community by what he did.

She said she knows she should forgive him but is not there yet. She added that she is praying for him.

Lorine Mosley, King’s mother, described her son to the judge as upstanding young man who has tried to help people. She said he was a great pastor and leader.

At one point Mosley said, “I’m just having trouble believing …” before trailing off in mid-sentence. She shook her head and looked the judge in the eye as she spoke.

Afterward, Mosley said she believes her son is innocent.

Mark Anthony, an assistant district attorney, sought 35 years in prison and life on probation for King. He noted the “evil done here” that he said was exacerbated by King’s position as a pastor.

Public defender Nick White, who represented King, sought the minimum sentence the judge would be willing to consider. White noted that King’s actions were horrible and that he did take advantage of his position. But King also had no prior felony record and there were no allegations of other victims, White said.

“I ask you to take mercy on him,” White implored the judge.

The minimum King could have received was 25 years in prison under state law.

King, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, did not make a statement during the hearing and maintained his composure.

Anthony offered praise for the teen after the hearing.

“I know that this whole experience has been tremendously difficult for this victim and especially going through this trial, and I just want to say that I could not be more proud of her for doing this,” he said