Pastor convicted in abuse

Houston Chronicle

Some followers collapse and wail after their pastor found guilty in '94 sex abuse of teen

Several members of a small Pentecostal church in Aldine collapsed on a Harris County courthouse floor and wailed unintelligible prayers Thursday after their longtime pastor was convicted of sexually abusing a teenage girl more than 10 years ago.

The Rev. Curtis Bass of the International Pentecostal Church was sentenced to 10 years in prison on two charges of indecency with a child. A woman, now 26, testified that he touched her breasts and vagina on two occasions when she was 16 years old in 1994.

"God is still in control," Bass, 53, said to dozens of church members seated in the courtroom after his sentencing. He took off his silver wristwatch before court bailiffs took him away.

Defense witnesses said the former construction worker who went to theology school in Jackson, Miss., was a longtime youth minister known for encouraging teens to participate in the church, which has about 100 members.

"It's sickening, from someone who supposedly does the Lord's work," Assistant District Attorney Robert Freyer told jurors Thursday.

At least three women have lodged sexual abuse complaints against Bass, said deputy investigator Russell Ackley of the Harris County Sheriff's Department.

In one of those complaints, charges were dropped in 2000 when a grand jury found insufficient evidence to believe a crime occurred. No charges were filed in another case, but jurors heard about the allegations this week.

"He has a weakness. He's just like you and I. We all have weaknesses," James McDonald, Bass' 76-year-old father-in-law, said during the trial's punishment phase.

Bass's attorney, Mark Troy of Dallas, pleaded with jurors to spare the married father of two a prison sentence and limit his punishment to probation.

"Are you going to throw away his whole life? Or are you going to give him a chance to rebuild it?" Troy asked jurors.

Bass testified Wednesday and adamantly denied molesting the girl, but offered no reason for the repeated allegations .

"Can you make sense of why all these girls would go through this pain and humiliation with all these lawyers?" Freyer asked.

"No sir, I don't know," Bass said.

Bass's 23-year-old son, Dustin Bass, also testified during the punishment phase and asked the jury for leniency.

"He's been the kind of father I always hoped I could be," the son said as his eyes welled with tears.

Bass also cried during his son's testimony, as did several church members in the courtroom.

Bass's accuser contacted authorities last year after her cousin told family members about a similar allegation.

As the jury deliberated Friday morning, about 20 church members crowded in a courtroom hallway holding hands and saying prayers for Bass.

After the guilty verdict, a group of young men and women from Bass' church ran out of the courtroom and collapsed on the hallway floor, where they began shaking, shouting and crying loudly.

Court officials summoned several deputy constables who patrolled the hallway for the rest of the day and repeatedly told church members to refrain from loud emotional outbursts.

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