Seymour pleads guilty to molestation, avoids trial
Judge will decide punishment for ex-church volunteer
By Jason Geary
January 21, 2009
BARTOW | A former volunteer of First Baptist Church at the Mall accused of molesting three boys decided Wednesday to place his future in the hands of a judge rather than risk going to trial.
Jurors had been picked and opening statements were expected to begin.
Instead, former Lakeland church volunteer Marshal Seymour pleaded guilty and no contest to five felony charges. He faces up to 65 years in prison at his March 12 sentencing hearing.
Circuit Judge Donald Jacobsen must determine an appropriate punishment. The judge said he would consider all the evidence presented to him at the sentencing hearing, which is expected to last at least half a day.
Seymour pleaded guilty to two counts of promoting sexual performance of a child and tampering with a witness. He also pleaded no contest to unlawful sexual activity with a minor and a third count of promoting sexual performance of a child.
Seymour was arrested Nov. 2, 2007, after investigators with the Lakeland Police Department determined that Seymour molested three boys he met through his volunteer work, arrest reports state.
Seymour spoke to detectives in an Oct. 17, 2007, interview about the sexual abuse allegations, according to transcripts.
Seymour agreed to having about 10 sexual encounters with one boy but insisted that he thought the boy was 18 years old at the time.
The 41-year-old Lakeland man said the sexual activity took place because he was weak and "curiosity met the bad judgment." He said the boy later tried to blackmail him.
"I mark it up as poor judgment and just being stupid and not protecting myself," Seymour said.
Several days later, Seymour spoke to detectives in another interview where he agreed that the boy must have been younger than 18.
Seymour denied that his actions were "predatory." He revealed to detectives that he had been molested as a child.
Seymour was also charged with molesting another two boys.
The Lakeland Police Department investigation into Seymour also revealed eight other boys as potential victims.
As part of Seymour's plea agreement, prosecutors agreed not to file additional charges against Seymour with these "currently known" victims.
However, prosecutors aren't prohibited from filing charges against Seymour if other victims were to come forward in the future.
Seymour, who ran a local fire extinguisher business, moved to Lakeland in 1999 and began volunteering at First Baptist Church at the Mall.
The church is one of the largest churches in the region, with more than 8,700 members.
Seymour also has a history of sexual abuse in Alabama, where he was accused of molesting a 15-year-old boy whom he met as a youth pastor, court records show. He was convicted of misdemeanor battery in that case.
[ Jason Geary can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7536. ]
Church volunteer in Lakeland accused of having sex with boys, St. Petersburg Times, 11/5/07
Youth minister arrested on sex charges, The Ledger, 11/4/07
Church youth volunteer investigated, The Ledger, 10/29/07
Pastor again hit with sex charges, Alabama Press-Register, 11/5/07
Sexual abuse scandal hits prominent Southern Baptist church in Florida, EthicsDaily, 11/6/07
Accusations follow minister across 3 states, Alabama Press-Register, 11/7/07
SNAP Note: First Baptist Church at the Mall is an SBC-affiliated church.