Odessa Youth Minister Arrested on Sexual Battery Charges

A 26-year-old youth minister has been arrested on sexual battery charges.

The judge increased the man’s bond to $100,000 in court this morning. It was originally set at $75,000.

The 26-year-old was booked into the Hillsborough County Jail on Sunday afternoon.

According to a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office report, the man was involved in a sexual relationship with a teenage girl he met through his job at the Openwater Church located on Race Track Road in Odessa. Investigators claim the man had sex with the victim at his Tampa residence and on at least two occasions in a bathroom at the church.

The girl’s mother apparently discovered sexually explicit photos, videos and text messages between the man and her daughter.

The man is listed as a staff member on the Church’s website. His role as minister with the church calls for him to work with teens between the 6th and 12th grades as well as some college students.

The church sent a statement to News Channel 8 that says, in part: “We are shocked, saddened and outraged by these circumstances and have reached out to the victim’s family to provide whatever support we can to them.”

The judge also ordered the man to avoid anyone under the age of 18.

He’s charged with five counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with a victim between 12 and 16 years of age and five counts of sexual battery.

The investigation is ongoing.

The public is quick to view someone accused of sexual battery as guilty, especially when that someone is a pastor or another upstanding citizen that others look up to. An accusation of a sex crime alone can deliver irreparable damage to the person’s reputation in the community.

Despite your innocence in a sex crimes case, allegations are taken very serious. Prosecutors like to make examples out of these cases and will stop at nothing to achieve a conviction as well as seek the maximum penalties. This is why anyone facing a sex crimes charge must have an equally aggressive sex crimes defense attorney who can defend them against these charges. Our Florida Sexual Battery Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you understand your rights and provide you with a powerful defense strategy.

Call us today at 813-221-3200 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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