By Rob Golub
RACINE - A former Union Grove pastor was sentenced Friday to one year in jail for two counts of sexual assault against a nine-year-old girl.
Jeffery A. Baas, 47, was convicted in May of having sexual contact with the girl. The same jury found him not guilty of accusations that he had intercourse with the girl in a Sunday School room at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2908 S. Colony Ave.
In court Friday, defense attorney Mark Nielsen asked for minimal incarceration time; prosecutor Randy Schneider requested at least 20 years.
Probation officials recommended 12 to 15 years.
But Racine County Circuit Judge Wayne Marik sentenced Baas to just one year in jail, with work-release privileges to support his family and seek treatment.
Marik said the sentencing was difficult, but he was swayed by the needs of Baas's family and his 47 years of otherwise crime-free life. Baas even passed a polygraph test, indicating he's assaulted no other children.
"With the exception of this behavior," Marik told the defendant, "you have an exemplary character."
He called the offense "an anomaly, really, in your pattern of living."
Baas works outside of the ministry now, supporting six children. His wife, Joann, collects Social Security; she is legally blind.
Still, Marik condemned Baas' conduct, pointing out he broke the bond of trust associated with a pastor. Marik noted that Baas told the girl he "would come after her" if she told on him.
It has been nine years since the incident. The victim, who was nine at the time, only recently came forward.
Even today, as a young woman, the former 9-year-old has post traumatic stress disorder and has gone through several therapists. She reportedly cuts herself.
Last year, the victim finally told police she was assaulted by Baas in the church basement. She said it happened in 1992. The church was next to Baas' home, formerly located in the 2800 block of South Colony Avenue.
She said the incident occurred after Baas told her he was able to put her under his powerful spell of hypnotism.
After the victim and other girls at a sleepover birthday party were supposedly hypnotized, Baas asked everyone, except the victim, to go outside. The girl was then told to sit in a chair. She was asked if she was still hypnotized. Even though she was never successfully hypnotized, she said she was.
He then moved to remove her clothing. He also had her touch him. The attack ended when she screamed, she said.
"I have done wrong. I have harmed (the girl) greatly and I have harmed the family," Baas told the court, his voice quivering. "I have broken the trust that my congregation had of me … I recognize that I deserve punishment."
His wife, Joann Baas, also spoke: "I'm pretty angry about the fact that he did it. I know what he did was wrong. But I still love him and I want him to be with us."
The Baas family now lives in Minnesota. Judge Marik said Jeffery Baas could probably serve his jail term near the Twin Cities, while working or seeking counseling by day.
Beyond the one year Baas will actually serve, he was also given a stayed 10-year sentence and probation for 20 years. During his probation, he must seek any treatment officials recommend, he may not have contact with any children except his own, and he may not perform hypnosis.
"We sent her to a small Lutheran school," said the victim's mother, in a letter read to the court. The mother expected her daughter would keep her innocence there.
"This monster took that away from her," she said.
"What gave him the right to shape the way she thinks about men?" said the father, through his written statement.
"Show the mercy he showed his victim."