Former pastor William Jeffress chokes back tears as he makes a statement at his sentencing hearing Wednesday morning in Van Wert County Court of Common Pleas. Jeffress was given five years of community control and two 30-day jail sentences in connection with a charge of attempted sexual battery.
Former pastor William Jeffress chokes back tears as he makes a statement at his sentencing hearing Wednesday morning in Van Wert County Court of Common Pleas. Jeffress was given five years of community control and two 30-day jail sentences in connection with a charge of attempted sexual battery.

Times Bulletin News Writer

"If you look in my heart and see the person I am, you'll know that I am not a threat. This is uncharacteristic of me. It is not a lifestyle. It was a single event."

William Jeffress fought back tears as he asked for mercy from Van Wert County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles D. Steele on Wednesday morning. The former Van Wert minister was classified as a tier three sexual offender and was given two 30-day jail terms, 60 days of electronically-monitored house arrest, and five years of community control.

Jeffress had pleaded guilty to attempted sexual battery, a fourth-degree felony, in connection with an incident in late September or early October of 2007. According to a police investigation, Jeffress inappropriately touched a foster child in his care. "I'm sorry. I'm devastated and overwhelmed with my actions," Jeffress said. "I hope and pray that you would take all of this and temper your judgment with mercy."

Jeffress' attorney, Steve Diller argued that the victim had been diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder. "That disorder, the hallmark of it is the need on the part of the individual... to manipulate or control. It does not excuse what occurred here, but... I think it provides perhaps an explanation for what occurred in this particular case."

Diller also argued, "I think that only by the grace of God, or whatever religion or creed you might confess, any one of us could find ourselves in this place."

Assistant County Prosecutor Kevin Taylor responded, "This isn't a case where any of us can find ourselves in this situation. Millions of people in this country raise their children and don't engage in sexual conduct with them or have any sexual contact with them. This is a serious crime. The victim has been hurt."

As part of the offender classification, Jeffress will have to register in the county he works, lives and attends school every 90 days for the rest of his life. He must also serve 200 hours of community service, complete a sex offender treatment program, and pay court costs. He was ordered not to have any contact with the victim or have unsupervised contact with any minor. He will also serve three years of intensive supervision.

Also sentenced on Wednesday was Gary L. Haines, 63, Van Wert, on a fifth-degree felony charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity oriented material or performance. Haines was charged as a result of a seven-month Van Wert Sheriff's Office investigation in 2007. His computer was found to have child pornography.

Haines was given three years of community control, including 30 days in the Van Wert County Jail and 60 days of electronically-monitored house arrest. He must also undergo a psychological assessment and complete any treatments recommended. In addition, Haines must have no unsupervised contact with a minor, have a computer or use a computer during the probation period. An 11-month prison term was deferred pending the successful completion of the community control program.

He was also classified as a tier one sexually oriented offender and must register with the county sheriff periodically for a the next 15 years.

Rodney C. Pulfer, 26, Convoy, was sentenced to 180 days in jail on a charge of domestic violence a misdemeanor of the first degree. He was charged in connection with a Nov. 23, 2007 incident.

Pulfer told Steele that things have changed since November. He said, "I have been attending Westwood, and I have been working. Me and my girlfriend have worked out a lot of problems."

Steele gave Pulfer the maximum sentence, 180 days in Van Wert County Jail. He was given credit for six days already served. He must also undergo a substance abuse assessment and an anger management assessment and complete any complete any required programs. Pulfer may petition the court after 90 days for a sentence review.

A former Adams County Indiana corrections officer accused of hog-tying his wife changed his plea to guilty to a lesser charge on Wednesday. Brandon H. Thomas, 25, Van Wert, entered a guilty to attempted abduction, a fourth-degree felony. He will be sentenced on April 2.

Thomas was arrested on Jan. 18 after handcuffing his wife, restraining her ankles and tying the two together with a rope. At the time of his arrest, Thomas was found with a semi-automatic rifle and three handguns in his car, as well as more than 400 rounds of ammunition.

County Prosecutor Charles Kennedy told Steele that the state would have no objection to Thomas being released on bond, but only after turning in a written plan for anger management. Thomas was held pending the completion of that plan.

A second man charged with a series of break-ins in Van Wert and Paulding County entered guilty pleas to four counts of burglary. Chad Kouts, 18, Van Wert could have faced a maximum of 29 years in prison and up to $55,000 in fines, but withother charges pending in Paulding County, Taylor said that the State would not object to concurrent sentences in the cases. Sentencing was set for April 2.

Kouts and Jonathan Fulk were arrested for a string of burglaries at residences and at Lincolnview High School. Taylor told the court that extensive restitution would have to be made. One victim is claiming a loss of around $20,000, while the loss at Lincolnview was figured to be near $5,000.

Gary L. Caywood, 42, Delphos, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree misdemeanor domestic violence stemming from a Jan. 12 incident with family members. He could receive up to 360 days in jail and a $2,000 fine at his sentencing on March 12.

Joshual Saraceno, 18, Van Wert, was arraigned on a fifth-degree felony count of breaking and entering. The former Fort Wayne, Indiana resident is accused of breaking into an outbuilding at a rural Van Wert County residence and taking a saw and air compressor which were pawned at a local shop.

Saraceno entered a plea of not guilty. He was told he would be released on a $5.000 personal surety bond once his Van Wert address was verified by the probation department. A pretrial hearing was set for Feb. 27.