(RNS) — Mark Rivera, a former lay pastor in a conservative Anglican denomination who was convicted in December of felony child sexual abuse and assault, was sentenced on Monday afternoon (March 6) to 15 years in the department of corrections.
Judge John Barsanti of Illinois’ 16th Judicial Circuit Court in Kane County granted Rivera the minimum sentences for his crimes. The judge earlier found Rivera guilty of two counts of predatory sexual assault of a victim under 13 years old (a Class X felony) and three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim under 13 (a Class 2 felony). Rivera will get credit for time already served in jail and spent under electronic monitoring and will be eligible for parole before completing his full sentence.
During the first half of the sentencing hearing, which occurred on Feb. 24, Cherin Marie, the mother of the child Rivera was found guilty of abusing, read victim impact statements for both her and her daughter.
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“She continues to be impacted every single day by this man’s abuse and the traumatic experience of having to testify about it in court,” said Cherin Marie, who asked to go by her first and middle name to protect her family’s privacy. Cherin added that Rivera was “a lay pastor in our church in a position of spiritual authority” over her daughter, as well as a “trusted family friend.”
“When my daughter bravely spoke up about her abuse, our church and community of friends, under this man’s influence, turned their backs on her and chose to support her sexual abuser,” she said.
Rivera also read a statement on Feb. 24 asking for the minimum sentence. “I understand that I have been convicted of a heinous crime,” he said. “I’ve committed to becoming a better person, a better father, a better husband, a better member of the community.” He concluded his statement by saying he prayed for “God’s blessing and healing for everyone involved in this trial.”
On Feb. 24, Rivera’s lawyer, Brittany Pedersen, expounded on a motion she filed asking for a new trial. She argued that because the judge did not find Rivera guilty of all 10 counts brought against him, the judge had not found the victim’s statements to be fully credible. Therefore, she said, the judge erred in finding Rivera guilty of any of the counts.
“When you find that she was not credible, I believe you have to apply that to all the counts in this case, and your honor did not,” argued Pedersen.
Barsanti dismissed the motion, stating that he did not rule based on the witnesses’ credibility but on the evidence provided by the state.
Rivera’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.