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Judge Rejects Reduced Sentence In Former Pastor's Sex Case

CHICAGO (STMW) -- A federal judge has shot down former First Baptist Church of Hammond Pastor Jack Schaap's motion to cut his 12-year prison sentence.

U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano also denied Schaap's request for a hearing on his motions and denied him a certificate to appeal to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Schaap pleaded guilty in September 2012 to taking a 16-year-old parishioner, who was also a student at the church's school and under Schaap's care for counseling, across state lines for sex three times. Lozano sentenced him in March 2013 to 12 years in prison, two years more than the 10-year sentence that federal attorneys had agreed as part of his plea deal to recommend.

Schaap then filed a motion earlier this year asking to have his sentence vacated because he claimed his original attorneys had promised that Lozano would sentence him at most 10 years in prison and most likely only a few years.

The charge comes with a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison, however. Lozano noted in his order, issued Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, that he quizzed Schaap on the issue thoroughly during Schaap's change of plea hearing, including on whether he understood that the final sentence was up to the judge.

"This court repeatedly asked Schaap if he understood the possible sentence he could receive was 10 years in jail and that the maximum was life imprisonment, and Schaap confirmed he understood," Lozano writes in his ruling.

The judge also dismisses Schaap's argument that as he is not a lawyer, he could not be expected to understand legal terms. The opinion says that Lozano specifically used laymen's term in explaining the sentencing situation so that Schaap could understand it.

Schaap had also argued that his original attorneys gave him ineffective counsel by not arguing that his victim, who Schaap had been counseling because of a sexual relationship she had with a boyfriend, shared part of the blame for their relationship.

Lozano notes that evidence rules would have denied this argument anyway and that Lozano would not have looked favorably upon anything "blaming the victim."

Finally, the judge also denied Schaap's argument that his sentence is cruel and unusual, noting that the sentence, although two years more than both defense and federal attorneys had requested, was still only two years above the minimum and two years less than what federal guidelines recommended.

"Schaap's conduct was egregious," Lozano says. "Under the rouse of conducting religious counseling to the minor victim, he arranged for her to be transported from Indiana to Illinois twice, and from Indiana to Michigan once (for several days) so he could engage in sexual acts with her which are prohibited by law in those states.

"Clearly, Schaap's sentence does not violate the Eighth Amendment."

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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