Minister gets 7 years for sodomy

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Confessed he knew he was HIV positive at the time

By Lisa King

A Shelbyville minister who had admitted to sodomy and sexual abuse of a juvenile was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison.

James Bell, 49, of Village Lane pleaded guilty to charges of third-degree sodomy, first-degree sexual abuse, distribution of obscene material to a minor and first-degree wanton endangerment, which was added because Bell confessed to having unprotected sex with a 15-year-old knowing that he was HIV positive.

Bell was pastor of Refuge Temple Church of God in Christ. He was arrested after voluntarily coming forth to confess to police in January 2008.

He told KSP Trooper Steve Spurlock that he had had multiple sexual encounters with a juvenile in the summer of 2007 and that they had occurred in Shelby and Logan counties.

The indictment said Bell showed obscene and pornographic material to a minor, and in addition to charges of deviant sex, he was also charged with solo sexual activity in the presence of a minor.

Bell was sentenced Monday in Shelby Circuit Court before Judge Charles Hickman. All of the charges were Class D felonies, except the distribution of obscene material to a minor, which is a misdemeanor.

Shelby County Commonwealth’s Attorney Laura Donnell said Bell will be required to be listed on the Kentucky State Police Sex Offender Registry for a period of 20 years. She added that if he does not comply with the terms of the sex offender registry when he is released from prison, he could serve up to an additional 5 years.

She said she doesn’t think that the child Bell abused, now 17, has contracted HIV because of his encounter with Bell.

“He has not tested positive,” she said.

The child’s uncle, who wished to remain anonymous to protect the identity of his nephew, made this statement to the press in behalf of the child’s family after the sentencing:

“We have been waiting a very long time for this. We’re relieved that justice has finally been served. It’s not nearly a long enough sentence, but we are glad to finally have some closure.”

Bell had been placed in solitary confinement when he was arrested, and Shelby County Jailer Bobby Waits said he has remained so for the two years he ahd been held at the detention center.

“We had to put him in protective custody because we were afraid things would get ugly in the cells,” Waits said. “When somebody does something to a child, the inmates don’t take to that very well.”

The church where Bell was pastor has been disbanded, but before that its' Web site stated that he was called to preach in 1978 and that he was ordained in 1984.