The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

November 16, 2013

Former pastor going to prison

By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER — On Friday, after vigorously proclaiming his innocence, Moore was sentenced to 9 to 25 years in prison by Mercer County Common Pleas Court President Judge Thomas R. Dobson.

He was convicted of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, statutory sexual assault, corruption of a minor and indecent assault.

Dobson ruled after a Megan’s Law hearing that the former pastor of Mercer United Methodist Church on East Butler Street met the legal definition of a predator based on the recommendation and testimony of a clinical social worker contracted by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board to review the case and interview Moore.

Molly M. Wagner, who has a decade of professional experience working with both victims and offenders, said her conclusions were based on an assessment board investigator’s report into Moore’s past, her own September interview with Moore in the presence of his attorney, a court presentencing investigation, prosecutor’s report, trial transcript and other documents.

Wagner said what she learned convinced her that Moore, 48,  had “intense, recurrent, deviant sexual feelings” for adolescents and carried them out with the victim after “grooming” the boy for sex by showing him pornography, “telling him that sexual experimentation was normal for teenage boys and that what they were doing together wasn’t so bad,” Wagner said.

She said Moore’s “mental defect” increased the likelihood that he could offend again in the future.

The victim, who is now 24, was a teenager when the abuse occurred.

Moore lived next to Mercer United Methodist when he caught the boy, then 13, watching pornogr8aphy.

Moore told the boy he would not get in trouble if he allowed him to perform sex acts on the boy, Mercer police said. Moore never asked the boy to perform sex acts on him, police said.

The abuse between 2004 and 2008 stopped when the boy went to college.

Dobson wasn’t swayed in his sentencing decisions by the testimony of five character witnesses questioned by Gerald V. Benyo, Beaver, Pa., Moore’s attorney.

Members of a Natrona Heights, Pa., church where Moore had been pastor from 2001 to 2003, his 17-year-old stepson, and college friends he had known since their days at Pennsylvania State University in the 1980s all said the man they knew could not have committed such crimes.

As a sexually violent predator, Moore faces more stringent police notification and registration requirements after he finishes his prison term. He also must undergo monthly treatment for the rest of his life.

Moore has 30 days to appeal his conviction.

Dobson pointed out that his denial of guilt would mean Moore could serve all 25 years in prison if he is unsuccessful in his appeal.

Moore’s guilt also was on the mind of the mother of the victim outside the courtroom after the sentencing.

“We would just like him to admit his guilt and get the treatment he needs,” she said.

She said she has forgiven Moore but that her son, who was not in the courtroom, “is struggling with that. I expect him to forgive him, eventually,” she said, “because he is a good Christian.”