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Published: Friday, 7/2/2004

Pastor sent to prison for sex assault of child

LIMA, Ohio - A pastor convicted of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison.

Russell Lawrence, 64, of Lima, also was placed on probation for five years and classified as a sexually oriented offender by Allen County Common Pleas Judge Richard Warren.

Lawrence had entered an Alford plea May 21 to a reduced charge of gross sexual imposition. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but pleads guilty to escape more severe penalties had the case gone to trial. Lawrence, pastor of Pentecostal Bethlehem Tabernacle Church in Van Wert, was originally charged with rape in the November, 2002 incident.

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