|Former Fairbanks Pastor Seeks Trial
By Chris Freiberg
September 3, 2010
It is "almost certain" that the former pastor of a Fairbanks church accused of having sex with a teenage girl will take his case to trial, his lawyer said Thursday.
Shawn Anthony Justice, the 32-year-old former pastor of Corinthian Baptist Church, appeared in court briefly Thursday with his lawyer, Nelson Traverso.
Justice, who remains free without bail, has pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, a class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He is scheduled to go to trial later this month.
At a hearing scheduled for Thursday, Traverso will argue that the psychological records of the teenage victim should be admissable in court. Prosecutors will argue that at trial they should be able to show jurors Justice's 2003 conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor in Virginia.
Justice was hired as the pastor of the Corinthian Baptist Church in 2007 and led the church for 15 months before he was dismissed in August 2008. He then led a satellite church, also in Fairbanks.
Fairbanks police believe Justice met the 15-year-old victim while he was pastor, but that the relationship did not become sexual until the summer of 2009, after he left the church.
Before that, Justice engaged in suspicious activity with the girl, such as sending her inappropriate text messages at church functions, according to police.
Justice's firing led to a lengthy court battle about whether a church's leadership or its congregation has the right to fire a pastor. That case ultimately was dismissed.
Supporters said Justice attracted new worshipers, especially younger people, to the church, while trustees said they found his leadership lacking.
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