A Georgia pastor has been convicted on eight charges of molesting a teenage girl and boy in his church seven years ago. The jury took less than an hour to find Reverend Kenneth Atkins, 57, guilty of all the charges brought against him. Atkins, a convicted felon who has also reportedly been married four times (fathering ten children), was the only member of his family present in the courtroom as his verdict was being read. Ironically, the outspoken pastor was somewhat infamous for being anti-gay.
When The Pulse nightclub, in 2016, was attacked by lone gunman Omar Mateen, and dozens of gay partygoers were murdered, Bishop Atkins, as he’s known, said in a tweet, the victims “got what they deserved.” But now, it seems, Pastor Atkins is getting what he deserves.
— Russell Colburn (@RussellANjax) August 26, 2016
The Georgia pastor was first charged in August of 2016, with one male victim coming forward with allegations of molestation. As is often the case when pedophilia is involved, the victim is often blamed. Charlotte Atkins, the pastor’s wife, made the following comment about AJ, the victim in the case. “The young man was part of our teen ministry. We loved him as part of our church family. He is a deeply troubled young man to be sure,” she said adding, “Our prayers and our thoughts go out to him and remain with him even now.”
But it wasn’t prayer the pastor was apparently after when he allegedly molested the man. And as is often the case, pedophiles do not have just one victim. Pedophiles have on average over 250 victims during their lifetimes, a sad statistic which may serve to demonstrate justice rarely comes to victims of molestation. Pedophiles continue to victimize as those abused stay silent out of fear or shame.
According to Jacksonville’s News 4, “The accuser, now 22, said Adkins molested him after he joined the Greater Dimensions Christian Fellowship in 2009. The prosecutor claims that Adkins would take the boy to school and buy him gifts before eventually asking to watch him and his 15-year-old girlfriend have sex.”
According to reports, the pastor wanted to make sure they were “doing it right.” The accuser, whose identity is being withheld, claims Adkins then touched her inappropriately as well. The accuser, who’s now an Army Specialist stationed at Fort Leavenworth, said the young couple had sex in front of the pastor so many times there was no way to keep count. They were watched having sex in the church, the car, and at the beach. As proof of their sexual relationship, the prosecution produced photos of the pastor’s private parts. Even though the prosecution produced eyewitness testimony as well as photographic images of the pastor’s genitalia, throughout the trial, Atkins maintained his innocence, even rejecting a plea deal offered to him by the prosecution.
When AJ took the stand, he told the court, “I respected him like someone that’s, like, my dad. So I would do, at that point, anything just to keep him around. So he wouldn’t leave like my dad,” the accuser said.” At one point in the trial, AJ said he still cared for the pastor but didn’t want anyone else to be harmed by his actions.
Also during the trial, Atkins spoke with reporters from jail. He defended his actions, and denied any culpability. He said, “I think we may have baptized him in the church. I was at that church for two months before I left and started another ministry and he came over along with a group of a bunch of kids. We had hundreds and hundreds of kids and he’s just one of the kids,” Adkins said. “They’re alleging I committed these things between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2010, and during that whole year really, he was just one of several kids. We were so busy that year. That was my first, starting the church,” he told News 4.
Atkins’ defense lawyer, Kevin Gough, said he will appeal as soon as the sentence is handed down on April 25th. He said at that time, he’ll file the paperwork for a new trial. Gough contends the state deliberately withheld pertinent evidence which could have cast a shadow of doubt about the mental stability of his accuser.
The unnamed girl, implicated in the sex show for the pastor, apparently lived with the pastor up until one month after the pastor was arrested. The prosecution stated she was completely under the control of the pastor. According to Savannah Now:
Five of the charges he’s guilty of relate to the female who denied anything of the sort happened. She lived with Adkins and his wife until about a month after his arrest.
“She’s in his clutches,” said Assistant District Attorney Katie Gropper. “What he has done to that girl is not only criminal, it is deplorable.”
Atkins’ arrest and conviction are the latest in a decades-long scandal involving clergy in the United States. Arguably, the legal battles began with scandals involving the Catholic Church and have fanned outward to include a whole host of other denominations and faiths, as victims are finally having their voices heard in court.
We encourage you, if you’re a victim, tell someone who will believe you first. Ask that person to accompany you to file a police report with a detective. Seek counsel with a qualified individual who has a stellar reputation for helping victims of sex crimes. Know that even though justice may never come for you in speaking out, you will likely be able to prevent someone else from becoming a victim.