GADSDEN, Ala. — A prominent youth minister, televangelist and author in Alabama has been sentenced to more than 1,000 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing seven teenage boys.
Acton Bowen, 38, had initially denied the accusations against him, remarking in a statement last year, “I have not done what I am accused of and have not acted inappropriately in any way. My family and I trust the legal system and the people who are entrusted with the duty of protecting each of our rights. I believe the truth will stand and I will be vindicated of this false accusation.”
At that time, one teenage boy between the ages of 12 and 16 had come forward, which resulted in an investigation and Bowen’s arrest. He was charged with second degree sodomy and enticing a child to enter a vehicle or house for immoral purposes.
“This is certainly one of the more disturbing cases that we’ve investigated in quite some time,” Hoover Police Captain Greg Rector told AL.com. “Mr. Bowen is in a highly-respected position of influence and he is trusted by many. We believe he betrayed that trust in the worst kind of way.”
Bowen was the founder of Acton Bowen Outreach Ministries and was the host of xlroads TV, which according to reports, was viewed by teens around the world. He served as a chaplain in the 2012 summer Olympic games in London and was a religion correspondent for Fox News.
Bowen was also the author of “Escape the Noise: A Thirty Day Devotional Journal for Students,” which made the New York Times best-seller list.
Following his initial arrest, six other victims soon came forward explaining how he had groomed them with gifts and got them alone. Acton’s wife, Ashley, filed for divorce. The abuse was stated to last from months to years, from 2006 to as recent as last year.
On Dec. 2, Bowen pleaded guilty to the 28 charges against him. According to the Gadsden Times, his attorney, John Floyd, said that it was Bowen’s “desire to acknowledge his responsibility” and to not put his victims through testifying.
Some, however, provided statements for Bowen’s sentencing on Friday. One said that he turned to drinking to mask the pain as he felt like “damaged goods,” and because Bowen was a spiritual leader, the abuse created a “divide between me and my God.” Another referred to Bowen as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” according to AL.com, and a third stated that Bowen “did his best to ruin the lives of other young men.”
Bowen’s attorney said that Bowen himself was abused as a teenager and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder because of it. AL.com reports that Deegan Mercer Malone, a clinical therapist, testified that Bowen was acting out based on what he had suffered years prior, characterizing him as a “very damaged man who needed a great deal of help and never got it.”
Local television station WBMA states that Bowen acknowledged that he also abused drugs and alcohol, and was addicted to pornography.
“The shame and guilt I feel is overwhelming and has been for a long time,” he said on Friday before the court. “My heart has never wanted to hurt anyone, but my mind is not well.”
Bowen said his “pride” kept him from asking for help.
Circuit Judge Debra Jones sentenced Bowen to the maximum for all 28 counts — a total of 1,008 years in prison and $840,000 in fines. She denied any possibility of parole.
2 Corinthians 13:5 states, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”