|Fondling Ex-Pastor Gets Conditional Sentence
By Eliza Barlow
Edmonton Sun [Canada]
March 7, 2007
Ogling and fondling the breasts of two young members of a city church earned a former minister an eight-month conditional sentence yesterday.
Thomas Leslie Cook, 48, of Utopia, Ont., was sentenced by Judge Michael Allen after he pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault.
"Your respected position with the church and your association with the local pastor allowed your access to the victims ... You have fallen from grace a great deal," said Allen to the silver-haired, cowboy boot-clad Cook.
Cook will mostly be under house arrest, but he will be allowed to go to work - and to church.
According to agreed facts, Cook headed a ministry called TLC Ministries and was an associate of the pastor of Strathcona Community Christian Church in Edmonton.
Cook was routinely asked to speak at the church, and members of the flock often sought counsel from him.
It was through the church that Cook met his two victims and started to abuse them, starting when one was 13 and the other 19, over four or five years.
Cook fed the same line to both victims to coerce them into removing their clothes, telling them it would help free them sexually if they did.
In one incident in a city hotel room, Cook convinced the older victim to take off not only her shirt and bra, but to lower her pants and underwear for his gaze.
The woman didn't want to, but Cook convinced her to do it by telling her it would help her be "free sexually."
He also fondled her bare breasts on another occasion.
Cook fondled or brushed the breasts of the younger victim at least five times.
He also coerced her into revealing her breasts to him in a Calgary apartment, after she started to believe she wouldn't be allowed to leave the suite if she did not.
Neither of the victims was in court yesterday, but Allen read some of the younger girl's victim impact statement.
"I feel the best years of my life were stripped away from me," she wrote in the statement.
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