Testimony in the Timothy Rademacher sentencing hearing Wednesday for sexual assault against boys held the rapt attention of the crowded Watseka courtroom of Judge Gordon Lustfeldt.
The former youth pastor at the United Methodist Church at Ashkum, Rademacher, a rural Kankakee resident, made a 30-minute speech of apology that brought his former parishioners, family, friends and victims to tears.
He described how the crimes happened, saying that one of the boys stayed over night and Rademacher, now 27, went to him in bed and had sex with him. The next day the boy acted as if nothing had happened, he said.
It happened frequently over two years. Then they both made vows to stop.
Instances with the second boy were the same, but he claimed he only touched him over the covers. He said he believes the boy claimed more explicit abuse because he had been sexually abused by someone in his family.
Lustfeldt was incensed about that.
"He was victimized by you in the worst way possible, and you deny it by making an accusation to another member of the family? He came here to be called a liar by you at this late date?" Lustfeldt said when he pronounced sentence -- terms combining for 30 years in prison. Twenty years is for predatory sexual assault, 10 for sexual assault. State's Attorney James Devine said Illinois law requires him to serve at least 85 percent of his time.
Lustfeldt offered hope to the victims, one of whom was present in court. He said he believes they can overcome the pain and misery Rademacher caused them. "There are people who are willing to help you. The majority of church people can be trusted ... The way out is to show great bravery in coming here today and going on with your life," he said. "If you stay with resentment, anger and bitterness you are still his victim. Go on with your life, be honest and trustworthy, a good son and help others so he will know you are the ultimate winner and will see the life he could have had and threw away."
Lustfeldt said Rademacher was in counseling when the abuse was going on, and he should've resigned his pastoral post.
His psychiatrist testified that Rademacher told him he was attracted to a boy in the church but did not admit he was having sex with a child.
Gary Fairchild, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Ashkum said the church initiated counseling for the victims and has written letters to all the families who had children in the youth group at the time.
"We've have done everything in our power to reach out to the family," he said. "It's a hard situation for everybody. Nobody won today."
He added that no one knew about the abuse until the boys came forward almost a year after Rademacher had left to become youth director at the Manteno United Methodist Church.
"Tim is very gifted and articulate," Fairchild said. "Everyone just thought he was terribly immature. We were all in shock. I want to say the emphasis of the church is on getting help for the boys."
During his apologies, Rademacher actually made a joke about repeatedly taking Kleenex from the box placed on the witness stand. "We might need another box, your honor," he said. No one in the packed courtroom smiled.
He said his victims and friends had "trusted and loved me. I damaged so much. It's hard to believe God will forgive me. I can hardly forgive myself."
He said the courtroom proceedings remind him of a funeral. "There are friends, family. It's presided over by an authority in a black robe ... It's the end of one man's life as it was -- grieving as a victim for who Timothy Rademacher was supposed to be."
He said he already had received a life sentence because he will never be trusted around young people again, and he asked for as light a sentence as possible.
As character witnesses, defense attorney Leonard Sacks called pastors who had gone to school with Rademacher at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston.
One of them, Laura Crites, is pastor at United Methodist Church in DeKalb. She had served at Woodland and Crescent City when Rademacher was at Ashkum. Like his other friends, she said she knew that he had questions about his sexuality but was never comfortable with saying: It's become obvious to me I'm gay.
Devine questioned her about examples of his lack of maturity, which she had mentioned as one of his problems.
She said he was above average intelligence, a lovable goofball, charismatic and bright, but that he wouldn't get his papers done and wouldn't have accomplished the reading assignment.
She cried over the fact that she did not know the details of Rademacher's crimes until the hearing.
"Those victim impact statements are the first I've known what happened. I only knew there were children and pornography," she said. "It saddened me desperately and angered me. My trust was betrayed and I still love him as I love anyone who's ill. I love him and I believe he will do anything to make his life count in a positive manner."
In his address to the court Rademacher apologized to the youths and their families, his family and friends and everyone in the county.