Lee gets 9 1/3 to 28 years for rape

Ex-pastor fled state with Chenango County girl, 15

Press & Sun-Bulletin, Greater Binghampton NY/August 22, 2006
By Jim Wright

Norwich -- Chenango County Judge W. Howard Sullivan said he used the words despicable, disgusting and reprehensible to describe ex-pastor Lewis J. Lee as he sentenced Lee on Monday to 9 1/3 to 28 years in prison on seven counts of third-degree rape.

The sentence came almost three months after the one-time pastor admitted in court that he was intimate with a 15-year girl, who was a former church parishioner.

Marsha Thomsen, the girl's mother, also had harsh words for Lee, who also faces federal charges in connection with his flight through several states with the teenager. She called Lee a "conniving liar" as she addressed the Chenango court during Lee's sentencing, said Judge Sullivan during a telephone interview late Monday afternoon.

"I think I actually saw him wince when she said that," Sullivan said.

"Every crime has its collateral consequence," the judge reported saying before he sentenced Lee. "Yours has raised havoc and created a wave that will be felt for a lifetime."

In April, Lee was apprehended in Maryland with Elizabeth Thomsen, who had left her family's dairy farm with him in March. The two traveled as far west as Wyoming and as far south as Tennessee, all the time evading police before a tip from Lee's daughter led to his arrest.

The Thomsen family, residents of the Town of Columbus in Chenango County, had attended the Christian Baptist Church in Sherburne, where Lee had once been the pastor.

Lee, 54, was sentenced to 1 1/3 to 4 years on each count of third-degree rape. The sentence also included an order of protection that prevents Lee from having any contact with the teenager, as well as a court surcharge of $270. In addition, he must register as a sex offender, pay a sex offender registration charge of $1,050, provide a DNA sample and pay a $50 DNA bank fee.

Lee offered remorse before his sentencing, court officials said.

His sentence will be served concurrently with any sentence a federal court may impose. On May 31, Lee pleaded guilty to four federal counts, including crossing state lines to have sex with a minor and violating an order of protection.

Lee is facing a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 30 years on those charges, federal prosecutors said. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 22 by Judge Thomas J. McAvoy in U.S. District Court in Binghamton.

Lee is being held in the Broome County Jail on the federal charges.

Before his guilty plea in Chenango County Court in early June, Lee had been indicted on 15 counts of third-degree rape, five counts of third-degree criminal act, and one count of custodial interference, all felonies, and charges of endangering the welfare of a child and criminal contempt, both misdemeanors.

Lee had been courting the teenager for more than a year without her parents' knowledge.

Chenango County District Attorney Joseph A. McBride of Norwich prosecuted the case. Lee was represented by court-assigned attorney Diane M. DiStefano of Norwich.

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