A Florida pastor listed in a lengthy exposé published last year on sexual abuse in fundamentalist Baptist churches has turned himself in amid allegations he sexually abused a teenage girl on church grounds over a decade ago.
Cameron Shane Giovanelli, 42, the associate pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, was arrested in Maryland Tuesday for actions he’s accused of committing while serving as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in the Baltimore suburb of Dundalk.
According to the Baltimore County Police, Giovanelli has been charged with sexual abuse of a minor, perverted practice and fourth-degree sexual offense stemming from alleged sexual contact he had with a 17-year-old student at the church’s school between January and August 2007.
The abuse is said to have begun with “unsolicited kissing” and progressed over time. According to police, the abuse is said to have begun “taking place nearly daily either within the school offices on church property or at other off-property locations.”
“Based on the information provided by the victim, police believe it is likely there are additional victims who were abused by Giovanelli during his time as pastor at the church and school,” a probable cause statement from the county police reads.
Giovanelli was released from jail on his own recognizance under the condition he has no contact with any minor. The Baltimore Sun notes that Giovanelli faces up to 25 years in prison for the charge of sexual abuse of a minor, 10 years on the perverted practice charge and one year on the fourth-degree sex offense charge.
Giovanelli has denied the charges but turned himself in to Baltimore County Police as part of an agreement made through his attorney, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The accuser, 29-year-old Sarah Jackson, was the granddaughter of an associate pastor and also the babysitter for Giovanelli’s children. She alleges that she was abused several times by Giovanelli when she was a senior in high school.
Jackson had been open about the experience, first reporting it on social media in 2018 and then continuing to open up about it on her blog, which is titled “Letters of Freedom.”
On her blog, Jackson described a “secret” relationship she had with Giovanelli, who at the time would have been in his late 20s or early 30s. She detailed that she felt heartbroken when Giovanelli ended the relationship when he moved to California. She accuses the pastor of betraying her trust as a child and trying to take her virginity.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith