People who attend the church typically see it as a place of trust, where they and their families can go and meet folks of like-minded faith and values.
But sometimes that trust can be spoiled beyond repair, as is with a case in Alabama where an evangelist pleaded guilty this past Monday in an Etowah County courtroom to 28 counts of sexual abuse involving six victims.
Paul Acton Bowen, the founder of Acton Bowen Outreach Ministries, was charged in both Jefferson County and Etowah counties with charges related to enticing a child for a sexual act, sodomy, traveling to meet a child for a sexual act and sexual abuse involving six different victims between the ages of 13 and 16.
The accepting of a plea in this case has been a long time coming, as he was initially arrested by Hoover police in April 2018 and has remained in jail since then.
The 39-year-old evangelist had willingly entered into a blind plea deal facing the Etowah County charges. Whenever a defendant accepts what’s known as a blind plea, they’re basically putting themselves at the mercy of the courts, as they could impose a sentence that reflects the minimum or maximum for every charge entered into the deal.
Circuit Judge Debra Jones will be establishing a hearing for sentencing at a later date, during which Bowen’s lawyers could present mitigating evidence toward any sentencing. Judge Jones was hearing the case after numerous Etowah County judges recused themselves from the trial.
This likely has something to do with Bowen’s ex-wife being the daughter of an Etowah County judge.
The Alabama evangelist has been charged with several arrangements of felonies, with lesser counts carrying sentences of up to a year and others up to 20 years.
Considering Bowen pleaded guilty to more than two-dozen sex crimes, there’s also the aspect of whether he’d be sentenced on each count concurrently or consecutively.
Paul Acton Bowen’s attorney, John Floyd, had the following to say about his client:
“He’s very remorseful, has been since Day 1. He made the decision to accept responsibility and acknowledge his actions. Deep down, he didn’t want any of the victims to go trial.”
District Attorney Jody Willoughby hasn’t offered any comment yet on what sentence the state might seek for the now convicted sex offender. All Willoughby would elude to was that prosecutors were ready to present a case this morning and that he was “relieved by the outcome.”
Paul Edward Acton Bowen pleaded guilty Monday to 28 counts involving six boys between the ages of 12 and 16 — most contacted through his ministry to young people. #SBCtoo #ChurchToo #CaringWell https://t.co/PaonjnbatH
— Robert Downen (@RobDownenChron) December 4, 2019
During the acceptance of the blind plea, Bowen’s victims were in the courtroom.
Willoughby also added:
“There’ve been many man hours put into this. However, this is just the next step toward justice and we are very satisfied in this morning’s phase, and the victims are as well.”
Bowen had served for 12 years in a local church. Aside from his church endeavors, he had considerable reach from him leading a citywide student Bible study in Gadsden and was also the host of xlroads TV, a worldwide broadcast viewed weekly by millions of teens and adults in every city in America and over 170 countries around the world.
It’s comforting to know that he’s been in custody the past year so that he couldn’t abuse anyone else.
The Etowah County charges, which were the only ones agreed to this week via the plea, dealt with young boys who told investigators that after they met Bowen through his ministry, they were abused in several ways.
The abuse detailed wasn’t only confined to Etowah County, but also during trips to different states and abroad.
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Willoughby commented on that aspect as well, saying:
“Obviously any case involving a child is difficult. We had people working around the clock and in other jurisdictions attempting to assist in any way that they could.”
Hopefully the punishment reflects the crime.
We say that because of a story we brought you earlier this week, when a convicted child sex predator was given a slap on the wrist for his offenses.
An Orchard Park hairdresser was facing up to seven years behind bars for admitting to sexual conduct involving a 14-year-old boy. The victim was a customer at the salon where the offender worked.
Stephen Savaglio, 68, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of Criminal Sexual Act in the second degree, which is a violent felony. Savaglio engaged in non-consensual sexual conduct with the teen at an Orchard Park location back in May.
Instead of getting the consequences he had coming his way, he was sentenced in State Supreme Court to ONLY six months in jail followed by 10 years of sex offender probation, according to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
That is not a typo. It wasn’t a 6-year sentence. It was 6 months.
In addition to that sentence, State Supreme Court Judge Paul B. Wojtaszek issued a final no-contact order of protection on behalf of the victim.
It is at this point in the story that we pause to remind you, there is a special section in hell for those who sexually abuse children.
Stephen Savaglio, 68, was arrested on charges of 2nd degree criminal sexual act, a felony, and forcibly touching and endangering the welfare of a child after allegedly assaulting a 14-year-old male customer at a local hair salon, according to Orchard Park Police. More in The Sun. pic.twitter.com/0KaP20SYCC
— The Orchard Park Sun (@OrchardSun) May 7, 2019