A former minister of First Baptist Church of Hammond is gambling he can get out of prison by branding as a seductress the underage girl he molested.
Jack A. Schaap, 56, is asking a federal judge to overturn his 12-year sentence “due to the aggressiveness of (the girl) that inhibited impulse control …”
It is a risky strategy that may backfire with U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano, who sentenced Schaap last year and would hear the new petition, according to veteran local defense attorneys.
“Judge Lozano may give him more time,” said one lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous.
Schaap pleaded guilty to transporting a female student of the church’s high school to Illinois and Michigan for sexual encounters. He also had sex with her in his church office here in June and July 2012.
He is being held in the Federal Correctional Institute in Ashland, Ky., and he isn’t eligible for release until April 20, 2023.
His sentence was two years above the penalty agreed to by the U.S. attorney’s office and Schaap’s lawyer at the time, Paul Stracci, of Merrillville. The judge wasn’t bound by that or the recommended sentencing guideline in the case, which ranged above 17 years.
Nevertheless, Schaap’s attorney, Charles Murray, of Bonita Springs, Fla., has filed a court memorandum asking to present new evidence and portraying the girl, who was age 16 at the beginning of her sexual encounters with Schaap, as having “had prior extensive sexual experience” in addition to using alcohol and marijuana.
Murray argues, “No doubt exists that (Schaap) should have resisted (her) advances, but (Schaap) submits his actions did not serve to destroy (her) in the manner that often occurs when underage individuals are victimized.”
Schaap’s new pleading doesn’t sit well with his former megachurch.
“We stand with the court on the judgment,” Ed Lapina, First Baptist’s administrative pastor, said Tuesday. “We felt the court was very fair and just in its judgment.
Lapina said he wanted to clear up false rumors circulating last year that the victim’s family, longtime church members, were told to stay away from church services.
“That is basically Facebook folklore. They are as welcome here as I am. They have chosen not to come back. We are fine with that, but the church has no animosity toward them. I wrote them a letter of apology a few months ago.
“The girl was a troubled girl. Her past was a tough past. She came here for help and that should have been our goal. It should have been (Schaap’s) goal. That didn’t end up happening, and so he is taking responsibility for that now with his prison term,” Lapina said.
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