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June 5, 2014

Ex-Hammond megachurch pastor seeks lower sentence

HAMMOND (AP) — The former pastor of a northwestern Indiana megachurch is asking a judge to reduce his 12-year sentence for having sex with a teenage congregant because he claims the girl was sexually experienced and aggressive.

An attorney for Jack Schaap filed a memorandum this week in U.S. District Court in Hammond asking to present new evidence about the girl's "prior extensive sexual experience" and her use of alcohol and marijuana, The (Munster) Times reported Wednesday.

Schaap, now 55, was pastor of the 15,000-member First Baptist Church of Hammond for 11 years when he was fired in July 2012. He pleaded guilty last year to transporting the girl to Illinois and Michigan for sexual encounters over a four-week period starting the week before the girl turned 17. He also had sex with her in his church office.

Schaap is being held in the Federal Correctional Institute in Ashland, Kentucky, and isn't eligible for release until April 20, 2023.

"Just as a juvenile should not be sentenced as an adult, due at least in part to a lack of ability to control impulses, so should (Schaap) have received a lesser sentence ... due to the aggressiveness" of the girl, attorney Charles Murray wrote in the memorandum.

A spokesman for Schaap's former church wasn't sympathetic to the former pastor's arguments.

"We stand with the court on the judgment," said Ed Lapina, First Baptist's administrative pastor. "We felt the court was very fair and just in its judgment."

Lapina said the girl Schaap had sex with was troubled and had a "tough past."

"She came here for help and that should have been our goal," he said. "It should have been (Schaap's) goal. That didn't end up happening."

Judge Rudy Lozano has given federal prosecutors until July 3 to file a response to the memorandum. Schaap will then have until Aug. 4 to file any reply to prosecutors' response.

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