Ex-pastor pleads guilty to sex assault on church member

 

James Virtue Robinson, former pastor of Southwood Baptist Church

By DEANNA BOYD

dboyd@star-telegram.com

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

August 30, 2008

FORT WORTH—For the second time in less than a week, Jay Virtue Robinson publicly confessed his sins.

On Sunday night, the former senior pastor of Southwood Baptist Church stood before the congregation he once led and admitted that he had done what he’d been accused of — having an inappropriate relationship with an underage church member.

On Friday afternoon, his admission came in the form of the word "guilty" before Judge Everett Young and the victim’s family in a Tarrant County courtroom.

In exchange for pleading guilty to sexual assault, Robinson was sentenced to 10 years of deferred-adjudication probation. He will have to register as a sex offender for life.

"Why didn’t you just confess from the very beginning?" the victim, now 18, wrote in a statement to Robinson that a prosecutor read aloud during the hearing. "Did you really think that you could get away with all the lying? Not only did you hurt me with all your lying but you hurt so many other people."

The Star-Telegram typically does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Robinson, who was accompanied during the hearing by his brother and a man described as his pastor and friend, walked away when asked whether he wished to comment after the hearing.

His attorney, Cheyenne Minick, said Robinson is remorseful.

"We stand by what happened today in court," Minick said.

The crime

Robinson was arrested June 18, accused of having had a relationship with the victim that included sexual contact when she was 16.

The case came to light in February after the girl’s father overheard a conversation that was sexual in nature between his daughter and a man he later learned was Robinson. The father brought the issue to the church council, and then to police after learning that the sexual relationship had begun while his daughter was a minor.

The allegations divided Southwood Baptist.

Robinson vehemently denied any wrongdoing and garnered the support of the church council and many members who believed he was innocent.

"An accusation of moral failure has been leveled against me. This accusation is false," Robinson wrote in a letter to Southwood members March 17, urging that members in discord be "shunned according to Scripture."

Other members, including one council member, believed that phone records of numerous late-night calls between Robinson and the teen supported the alleged relationship and that Robinson should have been removed from his leadership role.

Several voluntarily left Southwood. Others were removed by armed guards during Sunday services one weekend. Many have formed a new church.

The resolution

Robinson resigned from the church last month on the advice of attorneys. He reportedly returned Sunday night, stood before the congregation, admitted his wrongdoing and said he had lied.

Bill Vassar, lead prosecutor in the case, said all the victim’s family wanted was for Robinson to accept his responsibility and admit his guilt.

The victim’s father said Friday afternoon that a couple of church members, but no council members, had contacted him since Robinson’s admission at church, asking for his family’s forgiveness.

Too emotional to address Robinson herself during the hearing, the victim allowed prosecutor Kim D’Avignon to read aloud the statement that she’d written for the former pastor. The teen sat in the witness stand, crying and looking away from Robinson.

"I loved you and I thought you did me, but I guess not because all you cared to do was cover your butt," it said. "If you had just come clean from the beginning I wouldn’t have been called all the horrible names that I was but it’s OK because I am strong and I could handle it because I knew God was on my side."

Her statement finished by saying she forgave Robinson for the lies and the hurt that he caused.

"I wish you the best of luck in life and I hope you get all the help that you need," she wrote.

http://www.star-telegram.com/804/story/871972.html

See also:

Accused pastor resigns, church says, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 31, 2008

Fort Worth pastor arrested on child sex charge, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 19, 2008

FW pastor arrested after dad overhears 'sexual' call, WFAA-TV, June 19, 2008 (with video)

   
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