A South Side Chicago pastor has been accused of sexually abusing a minor for a number of years.
Reverend George Waddles, Sr. has been the pastor at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church for the past 29 years, and he recently pleaded not guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse. If convicted, he could be facing up to 7 years in prison.
Waddles has known the alleged victim since she was young, and began counseling her at the age of 13 in 2011 during private sessions in his office. Over the next two years, prosecutors say that the pastor asked the girl to lift her shirt, and he also tried to hug and kiss her at the end of their sessions together. When the girl was 15, the pastor supposedly asked the girl to sit on his lap and put his hand down her pants and in her underwear.
Once the girl told her mother a month later, the two confronted the pastor and his wife. The pastor supposedly admitted to the inappropriate touching, but asked that the family not go to the police. The girl's mother recorded this conversation on her cellphone.
Two other women have since come forward claiming that they were also victims of abuse by Waddles.
A case like this brings up a number of questions regarding sexual abuse, and especially sexual abuse of a minor. As we've learned over the past few decades, child sexual abuse is sadly widespread in religious communities because child sexual predators have easy access to children through church events and activities. And this kind of behavior isn't limited to members of the clergy.
But while committing sexual abuse against a minor is horrific and wrong, these situations aren't always so black and white.
Illinois Sexual Abuse of a Minor Law
A person commits felony criminal sexual abuse if:
- They commit an act of sexual conduct by the use of force or threat of force
- They commit an act of sexual conduct and know that the victim doesn't understand the nature of the act or can't give knowing consent
Either of these situations is a Class 4 felony punishable by one to three years in jail.
A person commits misdemeanor criminal sexual abuse if:
- They are under 17 and commit an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a victim who is over 9 years of age but under 17
- They commit an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a victim between the ages of 13 and 17 and the person is less than 5 years older than the victim
Either of these situations is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
What determines if a case is aggravated criminal sexual abuse as in the case of the Chicago pastor?
If any one of the following circumstances is present, criminal sexual abuse can be elevated to aggravated:
- The defendant used or threatened to use a dangerous weapon
- The defendant caused bodily harm
- The victim was over 60 years old
- The victim was physically disabled
- The defendant threatened the victim's life or someone else's life
- The defendant was committing another felony
- The defendant drugged the victim
Aggravated criminal sexual abuse is a Class 2 felony punishable by 3 to 7 years in jail.
Regardless of the alleged crime, though, sex crimes aren't hopeless. Remember, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor for showing that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Because of that, if you have been accused of sexual abuse of a minor, it's crucial that you seek legal representation from a qualified Illinois criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and reputation while poking holes in the prosecution's case.