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Bergen County clergyman declines plea deal in sex crime case

A pastor at a Bergen County church was separately charged on accusations of having sex with two different underage members of his congregation.

A jury convicted him two months ago in the first case after a trial for second-degree sexual assault. The clergyman was subsequently offered a plea agreement in the second case, but rejected it, opting to go to trial.

A conviction in the pending case on five counts of sexual assault could result in up to 50 years of incarceration. Under the rejected plea bargain, any sentence would have been limited to 10 years in prison.

The assistant pastor was first arrested in 2009 after a girl who had attended his church accused him of having engaged in sexual acts with her. She claims the alleged abuse began when she was 12.

A mistrial was previously declared in the case on the basis of juror misconduct. A juror reportedly violated the court's instructions by doing research online and communicating the results to other jurors.

The clergyman's conviction came earlier this year on accusations that he engaged in sexual conduct with a girl attending his church for five years, starting when she was 15 years old.

The pastor had argued that the sex acts began when the girl was 16, which is the legal age of consent in New Jersey. He is awaiting sentencing on that conviction.

He faces up to 10 years behind bars.

If he's sentenced to prison, following his release, he would be subject to parole for life and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

Source:, "Mahwah pastor rejects plea deal in underage sex case," July 31, 2012