A former Texas pastor of a Southern Baptist congregation has been sentenced to 17 years in prison after confessing to the crime of molesting a young teenage girl.
Stephen Bratton, a 46-year-old former pastor of The Grace Family Baptist Church, was sentenced to 17 years by District Judge Hazel Jones, according to an announcement on Tuesday by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Bratton, who first confessed his actions to church leaders, had pleaded guilty back in February of aggravated sexual assault of a child younger than 14, noted the District Attorney’s Office.
“Several other pastors came forward to tell authorities what was going on after this man confessed to them, and we applaud those people of conscience,” stated Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, as quoted in the announcement.
“This man, who had risen to a position of authority in the church, turned a child into a victim and violated his community’s trust. The victim and his community deserved, and got, justice.”
In 2019, Bratton was charged with repeated sexual abuse of a child, beginning when the unnamed victim was 13 and continuing until she turned 18 in 2018.
The victim reported to authorities that Bratton had sexual intercourse with her anywhere from multiple times a week to numerous times a day, Click2Houston previously reported.
In a statement given to Click2Houston in 2019, The Grace Family Baptist Church said Bratton had stepped down from his position as pastor after confessing his actions to fellow pastors Erin Frye and Aaron Wright on May 16. The pastors immediately reported Bratton to authorities.
“This is the first time this had been brought to the attention of the pastors. This activity is wrong according to biblical and civil law and the church condemns the behavior as abhorrent,” stated the church.
“Once the case began, we continued to cooperate fully throughout the investigation. Stephen is no longer in a position of leadership at the church and is no longer receiving a salary. Stephen Bratton was also excommunicated by the church the following Sunday, May 19. Therefore, he is no longer a member of the church.”
The church added that they “are working to meet the needs of the family and the victim. We have deep grief for the victim and have sought to respect the privacy and identity of the victim throughout this process.”