Admitted child molester asks judge to waive probation


July 3, 2008

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Former First Baptist Church deacon Stephen Edmonds was back in court on Thursday asking a judge to change his sentence.

In 2003, Edmonds pleaded guilty to molesting three boys. In return for his guilty plea to three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child, 10 other charges were dropped and Edmonds was sentenced to one year in jail and five years probation. He also must register as a sexual offender.

The plea deal did not sit well with families of the victims, which wanted the judge to sentence Edmonds to the maximum of six years in jail.

On Thursday morning, Edmonds asked that the remainder of his probation, one year, be waived.

His attorney told Channel 4 Edmonds' request stemmed from some serious family issues and illnesses for which Edmonds must frequently leave Duval County.

In the courtroom, family members of Edmonds' victims sat in opposition to any leniency for the man. They said he was given a light sentence in 2003 and should not get any mercy now.

"It's consistent with the way Steve Edmonds thinks because even though he was convicted, in his mind he doesn't think he committed a crime," said one victim's mother.

The state asked for a continuance, and no decision was made on Thursday. After the court hearing, one victim told Channel 4 that being back in the courtroom and seeing Edmonds was extremely difficult.

"It's hard knowing this man stalked me and my friends for three years and did the things that he did, and then he can walk around the streets and drive around Jacksonville and carry on like nothing ever happened -- it just kills me," said the victim.

A hearing was continued until next Tuesday, when the judge is expected to hear testimony from some of the victims and their families.

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See also:

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.