Crime

Youth pastor ‘lavished’ her with gifts, asked her to his hotel room. She was 13.

A former youth pastor from New Orleans will serve nearly two decades in prison for what he did to a 13-year-old girl on a trip to a Methodist youth retreat on the Mississippi Coast.

Jonathan Michael Bailey, 37, admitted to Biloxi police investigator Kris Hines that he told the teen to “come to his (hotel) room after everyone was else was asleep.” That’s when the abuse occurred, said Joel Smith, district attorney for Hancock, Harrison and Stone counties.

The abuse took place in January 2015, when Bailey’s youth group was attending the Sea Shore United Methodist Retreat Center in Biloxi, Smith said.

Smith said other students in the youth group reported the inappropriate conduct between Bailey and the victim.

“The brave actions of the youth ... led to the discovery of ongoing sexual abuse that had occurred over the course of months, both at the church in New Orleans and here in Biloxi,” said Assistant District Attorney Ian Baker, who prosecuted the Biloxi case.

As part of the investigation, the victim was interviewed and said Bailey lavished her with “attention, gifts and promises of a future together,” Smith said in a press release.

Most of the abuse, Smith said, occurred inside the church in New Orleans.

Bailey was arrested in March 2015 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his crimes in Louisiana. After his conviction, the Harrison County District Attorney’s office filed for an executive agreement, asking for Bailey to be transferred to South Mississippi to face prosecution for crimes committed in Biloxi.

Bailey was transferred to Harrison County custody in late 2018 and on Friday pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery.

Judge Roger Clark sentenced Bailey to 50 years in prison, with 27 years suspended. Bailey must serve the remaining 23 years day for day, without the possibility of parole or early release.

Clark heard from the victim and her family — as well as Bailey and his family — before the sentence was handed down.

Clark told Bailey he would “have to face the consequences of his actions.”

Smith said Bailey made the choice to manipulate and groom the victim.

“His repeated abuse of the trust that was given to him by the family, his church and the community will leave lasting scars,” Smith said.

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