March 01, 2005

Minister tells court he's guilty

Ann Arbor News

Tuesday, March 01, 2005
News Staff Reporter

An Ypsilanti minister pleaded guilty Monday to charges he solicited a 14-year-old girl over the Internet.

The Rev. James C. Southward, former pastor of Graceway Baptist Church, appeared in Washtenaw County Circuit Court, admitting to Chief Judge Archie C. Brown that he had sent sexually explicit e-mails to the girl.

"It didn't start out that way," Southward told the judge. "But I did it and am very sorry."

Southward, 63, pleaded guilty to one count of sexually abusive activity with a child and one count of using the Internet to commit the crime. Maximum penalties are 20 years in prison for each count. Fines could total $100,000 for the initial count and $20,000 for the second one.

In a sentencing agreement made Friday, Southward will serve 24-40 months in prison in exchange for the plea agreement. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 27 but is free on bond until then.

Southward wept as he told the court he has known the girl all her life but "never intended to hurt her."

Posted by kshaw at March 1, 2005 02:57 PM