A Bronx pastor, 38-year-old Dr. Michael Clare, has been charged with raping a 12-year-old girl and – as the Daily News reported today – has “turned down a ‘sweetheart’ plea deal that came with three years in prison.” Clare refused the plea deal because he’s declaring innocence, but Bronx Supreme Court Justice Megan Tallmer says there’s “almost irrefutable proof” that he’s guilty.
The proof? An aborted fetus with DNA matching his.
The victim in the case is now 15 and finally told her parents in June that Clare had sexually abused her for three years. The suspect – who is not only the head pastor of the Harvest Worship Center but also the principal of the Harvest Prep school – is currently free on bond but faces 25 years if convicted of rape. Clare’s lawyer “asked the judge to consider probation instead of prison,” but thankfully the judge responded, “I would never do that.” The prosecutor in the case told reporters, “This was a sweetheart offer considering the evidence against him. It won’t get any better from here.”
It’s a good thing for the victim that Clare has been so staunch about maintaining his innocence, because now maybe real justice will be served. Only three years for repeatedly raping a 12-year-old girl who was forced to abort a pregnancy caused by a man supposedly preaching God’s word? Horrifying. And yet, we know there are so many similar stories out there (though hopefully not quite as revolting) of young people having been sexually abused by clergy members who were then protected from maximum punishment by virtue of their status. (Many guilty Catholic priests have averted the criminal justice system entirely.)
The Daily News reports that “Prosecutors believe (Clare) may have victimized other young churchgoers as well.” In light of the terrible gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in Cleveland, TX who was also repeatedly assaulted, it seems like it’s high time to send a message to potential rapists and child molesters that they cannot get away with victimizing our sons and daughters without paying a price. I don’t know to what extent proven punishment will prevent future attacks, but it’s certainly an important start.
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