A Baptist pastor and former college president accused of “grooming” and sexually abusing a teenager over a decade ago as a pastor in Maryland has been sentenced to 90 days in jail after pleading guilty to lesser charges in December.
Cameron Shane Giovanelli, a married father of three, was sentenced Monday by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert Cahill Jr., according to The Baltimore Sun. In addition to 90 days in jail, Giovanelli will have to serve five years of supervised probation
Now residing in Florida, Giovanelli gave himself over to Baltimore County authorities in August 2019 to face allegations lodged against him by a former student he knew during his time as pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Dundalk.
It was alleged that Giovanelli manipulated the student and engaged in inappropriate contact with her multiple times between January 2007 and August 2007. At the time, the student was 17, and Giovanelli was 29.
Although Giovanelli initially denied the allegations, he pleaded guilty in December to fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault charges as part of a plea bargain that resulted in the dropping of sexual abuse of a minor charge.
The accuser, Sarah Jackson, said she attended the church’s school and also baby-sat for Giovanelli’s family.
According to prosecutors, Giovanelli is accused of using his position as a church pastor to pressure Jackson into a relationship that involved months of kissing, touching and oral sex.
Jackson told the courtroom that it was “not a one-time abuse.”
“This was months of daily, calculated decisions by my pastor, teacher and boss,” she said. “This was a man whom I was being raised to trust. A man who was supposed to be our godly leader and council. A man that was supposed to protect me as a child when left in his care. Not teach sexual acts.”
She even alleged that Giovanelli opened a phone line for her on the church’s phone plan to avoid her parents seeing how much the two were communicating.
She said Giovanelli “abused his role” to “get what he wanted from me.”
“He took things from me I could never get back,” she said in court. “He instilled things in me that took me years to realize. He showed me that even the man we are supposed to trust most, could not be trusted.”
Jackson opened up publicly up about the experience she had with Giovanelli in 2018 and launched a blog called “Letters of Freedom.”
Giovanelli’s lawyer told the court on Monday that his client “accepts responsibility,” according to The Baltimore Sun. However, the lawyer tried to bargain for a more lenient sentence by arguing that the relationship between Giovanelli and Jackson was “consensual.”
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Giovanelli will not have to register as a sex offender and will be allowed to serve his probation in Florida.
Giovanelli led Calvary Baptist Church from 2004 to 2014.
In a statement shared with WBAL-TV, Calvary Baptist Church said it “stands by the victim and joins her in gratitude that Cameron Giovanelli will face justice.”
After departing from the church, Giovanelli became president of Golden State Baptist College in California, a position he resigned from after Jackson came forward with her allegations.
Giovanelli also served as the associate pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, and was reportedly supposed to be the president of North Florida Baptist College when it opens up in fall 2020.
It's not clear if Giovanelli is still affiliated with either institution.
The Christian Post reached out to both Immanuel Baptist Church and North Florida Baptist College for comment on Giovanelli’s sentencing. A response is pending.