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Ex-Minister Gets 33-Year Sentence In
Child Sex Case: Gilstrap Guilty of 3 Molestation
BYLINE: By Jim King Staff Writer
PUBLICATION: The Atlanta Journal and
|GAINESVILLE, Ga. - The
Rev. L.G. Gilstrap, a defrocked pastor and former clerk for the
Georgia House of Representatives, was convicted Thursday on three
counts of child molestation and sentenced to 33
years in prison by a judge who said he must recognize the darkness
in his soul. |
The former Assemblies of God minister showed no emotion when
the verdict was read, but many of his family wept openly. The minister stared forward as Hall
County Superior Court Judge John Girardeau sentenced him.
"When we reflect upon our true nature, we recognize that it
is seldom all good or all evil," the judge told Gilstrap. "We are
capable of doing great good and great harm simultaneously . . . and
we must recognize the darkness within our souls."
of six men and six women deliberated five hours before reaching the
verdict. Gilstrap was convicted on two counts of child molestation and one count of
aggravated child molestation stemming from a string
of incidents last year involving two Norcross brothers.
boys, ages 10 and 13, testified during the six-day trial that
Gilstrap frequently fondled them and once took showers with them in
the nude. The older boy also testified that the minister tried to have sex with
him in the shower.
Neither the boys nor their parents could
be reached for comment after the trial.
The 54-year-old minister claimed that the boys
had lied about him and were involved in a conspiracy at his former
church, the Lanierland Christian Center in Murrayville. Eight men,
who Gilstrap said were also part of that conspiracy, testified
during the trial that they, too, were molested by the minister when they were boys.
Defense attorney Bob Andrews, who said Gilstrap will appeal
the verdict, said he was disturbed by the testimony of the eight
men. He said their statements, offered before the two young boys
took the stand, prejudiced the jury.
"The so-called similar
transactions had nothing to do with this case," Mr. Andrews said.
"They were presented only to poison the minds of this jury. If the
whole truth of this matter is ever known, there will be a lot of
apologies to make."
Three of the eight men who testified
against Gilstrap said the minister occasionally took them
to Atlanta to serve as House pages. After spending the day working
at the Capitol, they said, the minister would take them to an
Atlanta hotel and molest them.
In defense of Gilstrap, his
attorney said the charges are the result of a conspiracy at
Lanierland that surfaced last year when Gilstrap threatened to
expose a group of homosexuals who were parishioners there. He said a
Sunday school teacher at the church had been molesting boys for
years, but blamed Gilstrap for those actions.
In fact, three
of the men who testified that Gilstrap molested them also testified
they were similarly abused by the Sunday school teacher. That
testimony was given outside the presence of the jury, after each
side had presented all witnesses, for the purpose of a future
appeal. Judge Girardeau had previously ruled the conspiracy
District Attorney Andy Fuller insisted
that no such conspiracy existed. Mr. Fuller would not comment when
asked if he was investigating allegations against the Sunday school
During his closing argument, Mr. Fuller called
Gilstrap "the Pied Piper of pedophilia" and urged jurors "not to
follow his merry path like everyone else has."
during his hourlong summation that the minister had continually lied
about his relationship with boys. He also attacked the preacher's
claim that he has been "sexless" since 1985 because of prostate
surgery and therefore could not be guilty.
closing argument, Mr. Andrews said the eight men who testified
against Gilstrap were liars and could not be believed. He reminded
jurors that 35 character witnesses testified they would not believe
the eight men, but that they would believe Gilstrap. Most of those
defense witnesses were members of Gilstrap's new church, the New
But two of those alleged victims said after
the trial they were telling the truth about their former pastor.
"I'm just glad it's over," said one of the men, speaking on
the condition of anonymity. "I'd like to get on with things, but
it's going to be real hard. I don't think anyone could possibly ever