Pennsylvania Judge Overturns Former Youth Minister’s Sex Abuse Convictions

The sign outside the Uniontown Church of Christ in Pennsylvania on a rainy day in February 2019. Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

A highly publicized Pennsylvania grand jury report last year identified more than 300 predator Catholic priests who had sexually abused more than 1,000 children going back decades.

But because the crimes were hidden by the church hierarchy, “almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted,” the statewide investigating body reported.

Now, the same statute of limitations that prevented prosecutions in those cases has prompted a state judge to vacate the convictions of a former longtime Protestant youth minister.

Judge Steve Leskinen of the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas in Uniontown, Pa., recently overturned Clyde E. Brothers Jr.’s convictions on corruption of minors and indecent exposure charges.

“I’m sick to my stomach,” one alleged victim’s mother said upon learning that Brothers, 68, won’t be going to prison. Her name is being withheld to protect the identity of her son.

Brothers served for many years as the volunteer youth minister for the 100-member Uniontown Church of Christ, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. Since at least the 1980s, he also interacted with hundreds of children as a founding board member for Camp Concern — a Bible camp directed and sponsored by members of Churches of Christ.

Earlier this year, Leskinen ordered Brothers to serve up to five years in state prison. The January sentencing followed an October 2018 trial in which a 38-year-old man testified that he was 13 or 14 when Brothers began showing pornographic movies to church boys in the early 1990s. Eventually, Brothers performed lewd acts in front of him and encouraged him to do likewise, the man said, reporting that this happened “at least 50” times.

Former youth minister Clyde E. Brothers Jr. leaves a Fayette County, Pa., courtroom after being convicted of indecent exposure and corruption of minors in October 2018. Photo by Mark Hofmann/Uniontown Herald-Standard

Leskinen allowed Brothers to remain free on house arrest pending an appeal. In a post-sentence motion, the former youth minister’s attorney, Jack R. Heneks Jr., argued that Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations precluded the charges that were filed against the former youth minister in March 2017.

In response to the motion, Leskinen issued a new order this month agreeing with Heneks and “reluctantly” granting the defense’s motion to vacate the convictions. The judge said Brothers could report to the adult probation office “at his earliest convenience to have the electronic monitor removed.”

“Unfortunately, for the victim of this case, and for the community at large, upon a more thorough review of the statutory history … the relevant Statute of Limitations for these crimes expired in July of 2000 when the victim turned 20, and could not thereafter be revived,” Leskinen wrote.

The judge stressed that his decision did not change the facts of the case.

“The charges were filed only after the Defendant himself revealed his crimes, as well as others; and, after a thorough police investigation, resulted in only this single courageous victim confirming the facts confessed to by the Defendant,” said Leskinen, noting that Brothers couldn’t be charged or convicted “based on an uncorroborated confession.”

As previously reported, three of Brothers’ fellow board members at Camp Concern — conducted each summer at Raccoon Creek State Park, about 25 miles west of Pittsburgh — confronted Brothers at his home more than two years ago.

Brothers broke down and confessed to inappropriate behavior with “many, many, so many boys,” said Terry Lafferty, one of the board members and minister for the North Hills Church of Christ in Pittsburgh.

“He said, ‘I’m evil, just evil,’” Lafferty said of the December 2016 meeting. “And I thought that he was really going to open up and confess to all this stuff because there were a lot of names that started coming out.”

Brothers agreed to go with Lafferty, Richard Walton and Keith Wolfgong to make a statement at the Pennsylvania State Police station in Uniontown. By the time Brothers got to the station, though, he had become much less forthcoming, Lafferty said. Brothers identified four victims by name to the investigating officer.

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Source: Religion News Service