DUNDALK, Md – The former pastor of an independent, fundamentalist Baptist church in Maryland has admitted to assaulting a 17-year-old.
Cameron Giovanelli, 42, who now lives in Orange Park, pleaded guilty Wednesday to fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault charges as part of a deal that dropped charges including sexual abuse of a minor, news outlets reported.
Giovanelli used his position of power at the Calvary Baptist Church in Dundalk to pressure the victim into sexual activity in 2007, prosecutors said. The victim used to babysit for his family and attended the church’s school. She reported the assault last year.
The victim was sitting in an English class taught by Giovanelli’s wife in January 2007 when Giovanelli pulled her out of class, took her took his office and kissed her, prosecutor Francis Pilarski said. Things escalated from there, with Pilarski noting that the victim was coerced by Giovanelli and his authority.
Sentencing is set for January. Giovanelli faces up to five years of probation and up to 90 days in a detention center. He’ll be able to serve part of his sentence in Orange Park, according to the plea agreement.
Before the plea agreement, Giovanelli faced up to 78 years in prison if convicted of all 12 counts.
The church’s current pastor, Stacey Shiflett, and some of its 400 congregants attended the Wednesday hearing. Shiflett says the church has tried to support the victim in the case since she came forward, and the victim’s story inspired Shiflett to talk about how he is also a victim of sexual abuse.