Monday, October 31, 2011

Benton predator up for parole; survivor speaks out

First Baptist Church of Benton, Arkansas,
a house haunted by the "secret life" that minister David Pierce led for two decades.

Just two years ago, longtime Southern Baptist minister David Pierce was sent to prison after pleading guilty to the sexual abuse of boys at the prominent First Baptist Church of Benton, Arkansas. Now, Pierce is up for parole again. According to one of the Benton survivors, Pierce could wind up being released as early as November 6.

How did Pierce get away with it for so long? The Arkansas Times pondered that question two years ago as it considered the scores of boys whom Pierce had sexually victimized over the course of decades. As related by reporter David Koons, the answer rested in the blind-eyed and minimizing responses of the church’s senior pastor, other church leaders, Baptist officials, and “some of Benton’s most powerful citizens.” They apparently valued the status of the minister more than they valued the safety of kids or care for the wounded.

Not only did the church’s current pastor, Rick Grant, fail to properly prioritize the protection of kids, but the church’s prior pastors also failed. Both Greg Kirksey, a former 2-term president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, and Randel Everett, the former executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, had been pastors at Benton during Pierce’s tenure. But what did they do to reach out and help the scores of boys who had been victimized there? Everett kept a timid quietude (just as he did during the trial of Texas Baptists’ “murdering minister” Matt Baker). Kirksey wrote a letter to the judge urging no prison time for Pierce.

Let me just repeat that. At the First Baptist Church of Benton, scores of church choirboys were sexually victimized over the course of decades, and Southern Baptist pastor and former statewide official Greg Kirksey urged no prison time for the perpetrator.

The Arkansas Times got it right. This is why Baptist clergy predators can get away with such awful kid-violating crimes for so long: too many others in Baptistland act as though such crimes are no big deal.

The Benton and Baptistland elites weren’t able to save minister Pierce from prison completely, but it does look as though Pierce could wind up serving very little time.

One of the “boys of Benton” has learned that Pierce is up for parole again on November 6, and will likely be released. Here is what he has to say about it on his Descent from Darkness blog:

“I received a call from the Saline County Prosecutor yesterday. David's next (and it looks like final) parole hearing will be November 6th. In all likelihood David will be released on parole following this hearing. He [may] be out of jail by the end of the year.

"Since hearing the news, I've talked with a couple other adult victims. We all had very similar reactions. We knew this was coming. We knew when he went to prison that he wouldn't stay there as long as any of us thought he should. I don't think there is any way any of us could've prepared ourselves for it actually happening though.

"You deal with something like this for so long, and you get through so many days where you feel like there is no way you'll be able to continue to function. There are plenty of times where those days seem to drag on and on and on. Then you get to a point where those days start to spread out. You have lots of good days in between. Sometimes this happens for no reason, sometimes you can put your finger on exactly why things are getting better. Then something like this happens. It has put me in a complete tailspin. I don't know how to deal with this, I don't know how to handle it.

"Obviously, there is nothing I can do to change it. All I can do at this point is continue doing everything I can to keep it together. For myself, my wife, and my kids.

"The Prosecutor said that at this point he expects David to stay in the Benton area. I can't imagine him actually staying here. I guess he'll still have the people here who have supported him through this and refuse to believe his guilt, even after his confession (including the one who tried to friend me on Facebook, even after starting a fund to collect money for David). Maybe he can attend the Little Rock support group for sex offenders.

"It's hard for me not to think about the people that will undoubtedly be happy that David is being released from prison. From those who wrote letters asking for leniency, to those who don't believe David is guilty at all. It really makes me want to just crawl in a hole for a couple months until all this passes over. Well, until reality sets in, and I realize that none of this will ever pass over for me or any other victim of David Pierce. Honestly, I had high hopes, given David's "fragile medical condition" (as some of his supporters are so quick to point out), that he would die in prison. I think that's how I dealt with the thought of him being released these last few years. Now, I'm being forced to realize that he will get out. He will get to experience freedom again.”

-- "One of Pierce’s alleged victims ... describes a meeting in which First Baptist Pastor Rick Grant allegedly said Pierce could keep his job if he would 'seek to make amends' by apologizing to other victims." Associated Baptist Press, 11/22/11
-- "Parole decision delayed for former music minister convicted of abuse," ABP, 12/2/11
-- "Former Baptist minister paroled for sex crimes," ABP, 1/31/12

Related posts:
Truth and reconciliation needed, 1/22/11
Benton, Arkansas: Minister's parole hearing is closed to press, 1/1/11
Voice of an FBC-Benton survivor, 1/2/11
Remember the boys of Benton, 9/13/09
Denial: It ain't just a river, 9/1/09
Basically brainwashing, 8/28/09
Questions need answers in Benton, 8/28/09
A good man who does nothing, 8/4/09
What's wrong with this picture? 6/17/09