Sunday, November 28, 2010

Youth leader jailed

http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2010/112010/11232010/590182
Former youth leader to jail

Woman gets six months for having sex with teen.

Date published: 11/23/2010


BY KEITH EPPS


The former youth director at a Stafford County church was ordered yesterday to serve six months in prison for having sex with a boy in her youth group.

Jennifer Michelle Brennan, 37, was sentenced in Stafford Circuit Court to a total of seven years in prison with all but six months suspended. She was convicted of two felonies and a misdemeanor.

Brennan has maintained that she was raped by the 15-year-old boy, but yesterday she accepted responsibility for the "hurt that my role has played."

Judge J. Martin Bass' sentence came at the end of a three-hour hearing that at times was emotional.

Bass at one point told prosecutor Eric Olsen to "bring it down a notch" as he aggressively cross-examined a defense witness.

Bass also threatened to have some members of the packed courtroom held in contempt of court if there were any further distractions.

Court officials said some spectators were doing such things as rolling their eyes and giving dirty looks to the victim.

According to the evidence, Brennan was the director of youth services at St. Matthias United Methodist Church on Deacon Road when the incidents began in January of last year.

The 15-year-old victim was part of the youth group, and he had a sexual relationship with Brennan that included trysts in the parking lots at Walmart and Target and at Brennan's home in Spotsylvania County.

The boy said they had sex about 10 times and that Brennan initiated the encounters. Brennan said she was raped three times.

The boy eventually told his girlfriend about the relationship and the information got back to church officials, who took immediate action.

The boy's father and grandmother testified that they noticed that Brennan was spending an unusual amount of time with the teen, but weren't overly concerned because of Brennan's church connection.

"I couldn't believe it," the grandmother testified. "I trusted Jen. She seemed like such a nice person."

Defense attorney Mark Gardner put on two mental health specialists in an attempt to show that the sexual abuse Brennan claimed to have suffered as a child from her grandfather made her unable to respond appropriately in this situation.

Carol T. Giunta, a clinical psychiatrist, said that she believes Brennan was raped by the boy.

This infuriated Olsen, whose attacked Giunta's testimony so fervently that Gardner asked Bass to intervene.

Gardner pleaded for mercy yesterday. He said Brennan had no prior criminal record and has already suffered public humiliation and the loss of her career.

Brennan said she has been in isolation for the 67 days she has already been in jail and is eager to rejoin her husband and children.

"Shame is a powerful emotion and a heavy burden to bear," she said.

Olsen called Brennan's rape claim a lie and said "any consequences she is suffering are of her own making."

Brennan was previously convicted of using a communications device to solicit sex from a minor, child neglect and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

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