A Toronto pastor who sexually assaulted and deliberately impregnated a parishioner, threatening her with evil spirits unless she yielded to his demands, has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Rev. Frank Seeko Lawrence "grossly abused his position as pastor and spiritual healer by threatening a vulnerable and trusting young woman," Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba said yesterday.
On Jan. 10, a jury convicted the 59-year-old man of sexually assaulting the victim, while acquitting him of assaulting and threatening to kill her. Jurors also acquitted the father of 11 of sexually assaulting another woman by whom he also fathered a child.
Belobaba ruled that the jury's verdict means the pastor of Toronto Mount Zion Revival Church is guilty of fondling and touching, as well as five to 10 instances of forced sexual intercourse, between April and December 2003, when the victim was 24. The Toronto-born woman, who cannot be named, gave birth to a girl as a result.
"He fully intended to make her pregnant and he succeeded in doing so," the judge said. Belobaba quoted Lawrence as once asking the woman, "What is taking you so long to get pregnant?" and warning her, "If you're using any birth control, the spirits will know."
The victim's mother brought her to Lawrence for spiritual healing when she was 17. He gave her "spiritual baths," for which he charged $150, to get rid of evil spirits.
In early 2003, she argued with her mother, left home and began renting a room in Lawrence's house.
A month later the sexual assaults began. "He took advantage of her belief in curses and he threatened her with evil spirits if she didn't acquiesce to his sexual advances," the judge said.
Outside court, defence lawyer Anthony Robbins said he would be seeking bail today pending appeal. "My client is innocent. I cannot comment on the reasonableness of the sentence," he said.
By way of mitigation, the judge noted that Lawrence has no criminal record and is much loved and admired by his parishioners, to whom he is "generous and compassionate." Nine female and two male supporters were in court yesterday.