A Douglas County judge on Thursday sentenced a former Lawrence church youth group leader to serve nearly five years in prison for having a three-year sexual relationship with an underage girl about eight years ago.
“(The crime) has a long-term effect on the perpetrator. It has an effect on the victim, and it has an effect on the institution that he represents,” Douglas County Chief District Judge Robert Fairchild said.
A defense attorney for Christopher L. Cormack, 38, now of Billings, Mont., had asked Fairchild to depart from the state sentencing guidelines and instead give Cormack probation.
A jury in October convicted Cormack of aggravated indecent liberties with a child for having a sexual relationship with a girl who was younger than 16 years old. The victim, who was 24 when Cormack was convicted, came forward with the allegations in late 2007 after she heard he was taking a ministry job as a chaplain at Kansas State University after he attended seminary in California.
“I want to express my profound remorse for my actions many years ago that caused so much pain and anguish,” Cormack said while asking Fairchild for leniency. “I wish there was some way that I could undo the damage I have done, but that's not possible.”
During a hearing last week about 25 people testified to Cormack’s character and asked Fairchild to give him probation.
But Fairchild said the Legislature had clearly defined punishment for sex offenders, and he said that Cormack had abused his position of power as a youth group leader.
The victim in the case also told Fairchild Thursday afternoon that Cormack’s actions had a negative impact on her junior high and high school years.
“It took me a long time to realize he took advantage of me and his power over me when I was a child,” she said.
Defense attorney John Kerns said Cormack has hired an attorney to handle an appeal of his sentence, and Fairchild agreed to set a $100,000 appeal bond.