The former pastor of a northwestern Indiana megachurch told a federal judge he had three sexual encounters with a parish girl but didn't realize at the time his actions were illegal.
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Jack Schaap, 54, of Dyer, said during Wednesday's plea hearing that he first had sex with the girl when she was 16 and described the three trips he and the teen took -- the first of those on June 20.
Schaap told federal judge Rudy Lozano he was aware that his actions were unprofessional conduct and a sin, but did not know he was committing a crime.
"I was not aware of the law," he said during Wednesday's hearing.
The Post-Tribune of Merrillville reports the former pastor of Hammond's First Baptist Church pleaded guilty Wednesday to the transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Schaap, who was fired in July by officials with the church that has about 15,000 members, faces the possibility of 10 or more years in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 15. His plea deal also calls for him to register as a sex offender.
A day after Schaap's hearing his attorneys and prosecutors asked the court to seal all correspondence received in conjunction with the disgraced minister's child sex case.
The Times of Munster reports the parties argue in a motion filed Thursday that the content of the letters and emails suggest they were "meant for the Court's consideration only and not for public consumption."
The correspondence also contains home and email addresses and other personal and confidential information that by law must be redacted from public filings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster said the government's evidence against Schaap included photos of him and the teenager together on their trips, text messages, phone call records and testimony from the victim and other witnesses.
Schaap told the court Wednesday that someone else had actually transported the girl, who was then 16, to Crete, Ill., but that he made that rendezvous happen.
He said he and the girl took another trip to Illinois a week later, after she had turned 17, and then a third trip on July 10 to Michigan, near the city of Cadillac.
Schaap said that not only was he the girl's pastor, but he was superintendent of the private school connected to First Baptist that she attended and was counseling her at the time of the crime.
His actions first came to light in the beginning of August, when First Baptist, one of the largest churches in the country, fired him for the affair. Officials with the church said at the time that they did not believe he had committed a crime but had turned the case over anyway to the Lake County Sheriff's Department.
SOURCE: The Associated Press