WEST CHESTER, Pa. — A former youth leader in Pennsylvania has pleaded guilty to impregnating a teenager who had looked up to him as a father figure in her life.
“I want to say I am deeply sorry for the way my weaknesses have hurt [the victim] and my family,” Jacob Malone, 35, and married father of three said during his sentencing hearing on Friday. “I recognize that it was my responsibility to keep our relationship from becoming inappropriate, and I betrayed that.”
According to reports, Malone first met the girl while working at a church in Mesa, Arizona. As she had grown up without a father, she looked up to Malone, who invited the girl in 2014 to stay with his family after he moved to Minnesota to take another ministerial position.
Later that year, Malone again moved, this time to Pennsylvania, to take a job at Calvary Fellowship in Exton. He became the legal guardian of the teen and registered her a local high school. The Daily Local News reports that the girl enjoyed being a part of the family and taking care of the couple’s children.
However, while in Pennsylvania, after the teen turned 17, the girl says that Malone began giving her alcohol and becoming physical, trying to convince her that it was okay. She became pregnant at 18 and gave birth last year at the age of 19.
When Calvary Fellowship learned of the situation, they fired Malone and alerted the police. The girl told investigators that Malone had manipulated her “mentally, physically, spiritually.”
Malone, who fled to Ecuador after a warrant was issued for his arrest, was initially charged with rape, but he contended that the sexual relationship was consensual. Prosecutors then dropped the rape and sexual assault charges, and Malone agreed to plead guilty to institutional sex assault, corruption of minors and child endangerment.
“You have taken responsibility for a very, very serious series of crimes that have completely altered someone’s life,” President Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody declared. “You can’t ever take that back.”
Malone was sentenced to three to six years in prison and must also register as a sex offender for the next 15 years. He is additionally forbidden from having contact with children. Cody expressed displeasure that the sentence under the plea deal was too light for the crime.
Detective Scott Pezick praised the young woman, now 20, for how she has handled the criminal trial.
“She doesn’t hold a grudge, even though obviously she’s been traumatized,” he said. “She wants to see the defendant make something useful in his life when he gets out [of prison]. That’s mainly because of her religious beliefs.”
The woman has since left Pennsylvania and returned to Arizona.
Public reaction to the matter has been mixed, with some opining that the man should not be imprisoned because the girl was of the age of consent, and others expressing disgust and horror.
“As a minister and father of three daughters, what this man did was truly despicable, not only in the act itself but in doing what he did as a minister who betrayed the trust people put in him, especially this young girl. I wish he would get a much harsher sentence and that this girl and her family would somehow find peace after suffering so much,” one commenter wrote.
Ephesians 5:3-7 warns, “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints—neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient—but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.”