BRUNSWICK, Ga. – A Brunswick pastor who was convicted earlier this month of child molestation was sentenced Tuesday to 35 years in prison, plus life on probation.
After a six-day trial, Kenneth Adkins was convicted of two counts of aggravated child molestation, five counts of child molestation and one count of enticing a child.
The prosecution read a letter aloud during the sentencing hearing from Adkins' accuser, describing the pain that he said he still feels.
Adkins, 57, continued to maintain his innocence as he addressed the court at the hearing.
"I personally believe that I was not only prosecuted, but convicted, because of who I am and not for what I did. But with that being said, sir, I’m ready to face whatever it is that this court decides," Adkins said.
Later in a jailhouse phone interview, Adkins accused the jury of not respecting the justice system.
“A verdict like this, it makes you lose trust in the system that's supposed to be, you know, innocent until proven otherwise. That just did not happen in my case,” Adkins said. “They made up their mind before. … The prosecutor was able to paint me as this influential, powerful guy who just took advantage of kids, took advantage of young people.”
Adkins said the speed with which the jury returned its verdict after a week-long trial leads him to believe they didn't consider the evidence.
“They didn't listen to me. They didn't even give me the respect enough to go back through the evidence. To return a verdict within less than 80 minute -- smething like that -- (after) a week-long trial,” Adkins said. “If they would have looked at the evidence, they would have seen that there was no evidence. He said, she said. It was just crazy. It's still crazy to me.”
Adkins' lawyer called the 35-year sentence harsh.
"It's a severe sentence, particularly for someone of Ken Adkins' age and health," defense attorney Kevin Gough said. "But the court is required to impose sentence and these are serious charges."
Gough said the last several months have made an impact on his client.
"I think he’s a lot more humble," Gough said. "I think he’s a little less naive. Considering that he’s not a stranger to the criminal justice system, I think at times he’s demonstrated some naivete, certainly with the phone calls he made from the jail."
Gough said those phone calls to the two victims from jail were likely what led the jury to its guilty verdict.
Gough said that at the end of the day, Adkins is still the same man whom the public has come to know.
"He’s still Ken. For those of you that knew Ken before he got arrested, Ken’s still Ken," Gough said.
Gough is already working on appealing the conviction. He said a motion for a new trial will be based on the defense's belief that evidence that would have helped Adkins' case was withheld.
The defense centered on whether the victim in the case had reached the age of 16 -- the age of consent in Georgia -- and if he remembered the dates and events correctly.
The accuser, who is now 22, told the Georgia Bureau of Investigation last summer that he hadn't yet turned 15 when Adkins, who was the pastor of his church and became a father figure to him when his grandfather died, began calling and texting him. He said the relationship turned sexual in 2010, when he participated in various acts with his girlfriend and Adkins.
But Gough called into question throughout the trial the victim's age at the time and questioned the timeline of the events.
"When children are involved, it seems it’s easier to have a presumption of guilt than innocence, but that’s not the law," Gough said Monday morning during closing arguments in the trial. "Why now in 2016 does he cry out? Does it really have anything to do with Adkins being a pastor or the homosexual relationship they have?"