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Former Manchester pastor pleads guilty to assault

June 02. 2017 3:38AM


MANCHESTER — Former church pastor Stephen Jesmer was sentenced to a minimum of five years in state prison this week, after pleading guilty to forcing himself on a 13-year-old member of his congregation.

Jesmer, 38, was the pastor of the Dialogue Church until last summer, when fellow church leaders heard about the allegation and contacted authorities. He was arrested last August and was free on bail until his court appearance on Tuesday.

He pleaded guilty to two charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault, one charge of witness tampering and four misdemeanor sexual assault charges in exchange for a prison sentence of five to 15 years, said Michael Valentine, first assistant Hillsborough County Attorney.

“My concern was her (the victim’s) well being and not having to go through a trial,” Valentine said.

He said about 10 to 15 members of the church were present during the hearing. Jesmer was convicted under a provision in the state’s rape law that prohibits sexual conduct by a person who has authority over another.

According to previous news accounts, the assaults took place in the church office. The girl repeatedly refused but agreed after fearing she had angered Jesmer.

Jesmer’s wife was in court during the sentencing.

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