OGDEN — A former Roy pastor who admitted to having a sexual relationship with a teenage girl in his congregation was sentenced to prison Wednesday.
Aaron Witcher, 38, was ordered to serve two terms of five years to life in prison for two counts of rape, a first-degree felony, by 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones. The sentences are to be served concurrently. The judge also ordered that Witcher pay $4,150 in restitution in addition to any future therapy costs incurred by his victim.
Witcher, who met the then 15-year-old girl while working as the youth ministries leader at the Genesis Project in Ogden, was originally charged with eight counts of rape. The six additional counts were dismissed in exchange for the man's guilty plea.
Police say the relationship lasted nine months. The teen said the two had sexual intercourse "at least 20 times" while Witcher admitted to "at least a dozen times," according to a police affidavit filed in 2nd District Court. He told police he had sex with the teen at her home, at a storage unit, at parks, businesses and a farm, the affidavit states.
The girl's father wrote a statement that was read in court by a victim's rights attorney. In the letter, the man said he went to the church hoping to find "honest, trustworthy people who placed their lives in the love of God." He said he allowed Witcher into his home because he thought he was helping his daughter.
"You intentionally deceived me to pursue your desires with my young, vulnerable daughter," the man wrote. "You took advantage of my daughter's weaknesses."
He said he now views church leaders with suspicion and wonders who will be the next to victimize his family.
"You have mocked and betrayed God, our Heavenly Father," he said. "Right now I feel nothing by hatred for you."
Witcher's attorney, Gregory Smith, said his client acknowledges that what he did was "incredibly selfish, incredibly stupid."
"He stands before this court knowing, saying: 'What I did was wrong. It was unconscionable, it was a sin,' " Smith said. "He knows that."
The judge said that he received a number of letters in support of Witcher, who also had a large number of people in the courtroom, but that he couldn't let the court proceedings become a "popularity contest."
"This is such a serious case," he said. "You were in a position of trust. A lot of people look up to you and admire what you stand for. The victim in this case was a child in the eyes of the law."
He said it was also telling to note how many times Witcher and the victim had intercourse.
"Twenty times is just incredible," Jones said. "It's not just a mistake. It's not just an accident."
He noted that a psychosexual exam and pre-sentence report indicated that Witcher had a moderate likelihood of re-offending, especially if he is again placed in a position of trust.
"These problems are much more deeply seeded than you recognize or want to believe," the judge said.
Witcher's family, including his wife and daughters, left the hearing in tears and declined comment. Current Genesis Project Pastor Matt Roberts said he was at the hearing to show love and support to Witcher's family and that of the victim.
He did not make any additional statements.
Prosecutor Dean Saunders said the prison term was expected, as it was part of the Witcher's plea deal. He said the decision of whether to run the sentences concurrent was left up to the judge.
"Based on the charges," I feel the sentence was appropriate," he said.
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