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Federal lawsuit filed against ex-pastor who was sentenced to jail on sex offenses

Cameron Giovanelli now accused of defamation

Federal lawsuit filed against ex-pastor who was sentenced to jail on sex offenses
Federal lawsuit filed against ex-pastor who was sentenced to jail on sex offenses

A new lawsuit obtained by News4Jax accuses Cameron Giovanelli -- an ex-Maryland pastor who once pleaded guilty to sex offenses -- of defamation.

Giovanelli was once an associate pastor for Immanuel Baptist Church on Normandy Boulevard. While there, he was charged in a 2007 sexual abuse case involving Sarah Jackson, a Maryland woman, while she was a student at a Baltimore-area Baptist church and school where Giovanelli was the pastor.

News4Jax made the decision to identify Jackson because she went public with her allegations. Giovanelli pleaded guilty in December to fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault charges as part of a deal that dropped charges including sexual abuse of a minor. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, followed by five years probation.

Now, Jackson has now filed a federal lawsuit against Immanuel Baptist Church, Giovanelli, and his wife Sarah. Jackson is suing for damages from defamation, alleging various false statements made over the internet attacking Jackson, and causing “irreparable damage.”

Calvary Baptist Church Sr. Pastor Stacey Shiflett has stood by Jackson’s side since she came forward with the allegations against Giovannelli in 2018.

“The amount of slander and the amount of character assassination and cyberbullying that she had to deal with after she came forward was absolutely disgusting," Shiflett said.

One post, according to the lawsuit, reads in part:

“I do not deny the fact that Sarah (Hall) Jackson has had a rough life and may have been abused at some point in her life, but it was not by me!”

Other examples are found in the court document, which is listed at the end of the article. The lawsuit alleges the false statements were made with malice and in an attempt to protect the financial interests of the defendants.

“His friends, pastor friends and churches circled around him, protected him, shielded him, defended him, said he was innocent, sent out letters and emails asking other churches and pastors raise the money to pay for his attorneys," Shiflett said.

A year later, Giovannelli was arrested. He did not wish to make a comment to News4Jax in the months before his trial.

“She won. She was vindicated by him pleading guilty and yet they still continue to bully her and her family, and I think that she’s just trying to get closure and get justice in this situation," Shiflett said.

News4Jax requested comment via Facebook from pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church. A response has not been returned.

The suit mentions that Giovanelli and his wife are now citizens of Iowa. News4Jax attempted to reach Giovannelli by phone, but his listed numbers weren’t reachable.

About the Authors:

Reports weeknights for The Ten O'Clock News and News4Jax at 11.

Lifetime Jacksonville resident, journalist and experienced broadcast news producer with a passion for classic and exotic cars.