Edmonds to serve one year for fondling teens
July 1, 2003
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With his three teenage victims and their families in the courtroom Monday, a prominent businessman and former church deacon was sentenced to one year in jail.
Stephen Edmonds, the former president of the Northeast Florida Builders Association and a former deacon of First Baptist Church, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors two weeks ago -- 14 months after he was accused of engaging in sex acts with teenage boys.
He pleaded guilty to three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child. In return, 10 other charges were dropped.
In addition to the jail time, Edmonds must serve five years on probation and register as a sexual offender.
Judge John Skinner said prior to announcing his ruling that this was a "very, very tough call."
But the one year in jail wasn't enough for the victims.
"I don't think it's enough for what he had done to me," one of the teens told Channel 4's Heather Murphy after the sentencing.
Members of the victims' families had urged the judge to sentence Edmonds to the maximum of six years in jail. Edmonds' wife and associates said this behavior was an aberration of a generally positive life, and asked the judge for leniency.
The area's chief prosecutor said the sentence was appropriate to the crime.
"I don't think this is a light sentence, if you understand it," State Attorney Harry Shorstein said. "The defendant is made into a leper appropriately because of the sex laws and requirements that he will have to adhere to."
The requirement of a sexual offender include: no direct or indirect contact with his three victims, mandatory psycho-sexual counseling, cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or work in any position that would put him in contact with children, and has to submit to random searches and polygraph tests.
Edmonds was arrested in April 2002 after a 16-year-old boy came forward, saying Edmonds improperly touched him twice in 2000 and sent him pornographic material over the Internet.
Other victims came forward afterward.
Edmonds owns The Edmonds Co. of North Florida. He resigned as president of the builders association and as a deacon of church following his arrest. Previous Stories:
Admitted child molester asks judge to waive probation, News4Jax, 7/3/08
Former SBC president defends denomination's record against clergy sex abuse, EthicsDaily, 3/2/07
Accused First Baptist deacon resigns, Florida Times-Union, 4/19/2002
SNAP note: First Baptist Church of Jacksonville is a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and its pastor at the time, Rev. Jerry Vines, is a former Southern Baptist Convention president.