Former Baptist church pastor asks court for lenient sentence

2013-01-03T18:00:00Z 2014-06-03T07:17:42Z Former Baptist church pastor asks court for lenient sentenceJim Masters Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
January 03, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

HAMMOND | Former First Baptist Church of Hammond pastor Jack Schaap cited a litany of mitigating factors in a sentencing memorandum filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Hammond in advance of his Jan. 15 sentencing on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Schaap, 55, is asking for a sentence less than the federal mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison, having admitted to three sexual encounters with a girl from First Baptist beginning when she was 16. At the time of the encounters, the victim was both a church member whom Schaap was counseling, and a student of the Hammond Baptist Schools, of which Schaap was the superintendent.

Upon entering his guilty plea, Schaap told U.S. District Court Judge Rudy Lozano he did not realize his actions with the girl were illegal, which included having the girl driven from Illinois to Michigan to engage in sexual activity with her.

In making a case for a lenient sentence, Schaap said in the 18-page memorandum, that during the four-week period over which the sexual encounters took place he was “simultaneously suffering extreme stress, exhaustion, depression, burn-out, and several other medical maladies” and that, as a younger man, he had suffered a three-year period of depression.

The document continued, “In the months preceding his conduct, Dr. Schaap began to sense that his depression was coming back. Additional stress was brought on by a myriad of factors related to the survival of the church and its schools. For instance, where he had always been able to secure funds to support the church’s services, he began to struggle to secure adequate funding. Due to the decline in funds available for the church’s budget, he was forced to lay off dedicated workers, causing him further frustration and depression. The lay-offs also necessitated his assuming additional responsibilities, often causing him to work 100 hour weeks with no breaks in his schedule.”

In addition, Schaap also was being treated by a local urologist and his primary care physician for complications with his prostate, including chronic and acute prostatitis, as well as near-zero lithium levels in his blood, the memorandum stated.

Schaap noted by pleading guilty and “taking responsibility for his actions,” he spared his wife and children, family and friends, and the parishioners of First Baptist Church from the pain and heartache that would be caused by dragging those affected through a protracted legal process.

Further mitigating factors he detailed in the document come under the headings, “Impact Upon the Community,” “International Ministries,” “Hammond City Homeless Shelter,” “The Hammond Initiative,” “Mentoring Pregnant Teens,” “Reading and Academic Mentoring Program,” “Great Lakes Ministry,” “Blood Drives,” “Work With Disadvantaged Children,” and “Raising Funds to Support Community Programs.” Schaap’s work with the Reformers Unanimous program and Neighborhoods Inc. also is noted.

Numerous individuals have written letters to the court supporting Schaap and defending his character, including friends, church members and relatives, among them his wife of 33 years, Cindy Schaap.

In her Oct. 15, 2012, letter to Judge Lozano, Cindy Schaap wrote, “My husband has made a tragic mistake during a crisis time in his life. We have and are seeking counsel to prevent such tragedy in the future. It’s Jack’s belief and mine that such behavior will never be repeated.”

In a follow-up letter on Nov. 26, 2012, she wrote, “I do not in any way excuse the behavior of my husband, nor does he. I do not blame this 17-year-old girl for my husband’s behavior, nor does he. However, when I consider the fact that my husband was physically ill with a severe case of prostatitis, that he frequently complained of exhaustion, and that he was struggling with depression, I feel compelled to once more ask for your leniency in my husband’s sentencing.”

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