The brother of a Black Earth church pastor who advocated corporal punishment for children of church members pleaded guilty Wednesday to child abuse and causing mental harm to a child.
A plea agreement would have asked Dane County Circuit Judge Sarah O’Brien to place John R. Caminiti, 45, on probation for three years with no jail time, but O’Brien instead ordered a pre-sentence investigation to be conducted by the state Department of Corrections. She will set sentencing for a later date.
O’Brien said she wasn’t necessarily rejecting the sentencing recommendation, but instead wanted more information so she could make a better-informed decision.
Caminiti is the brother of Phil Caminiti, the pastor of Aleitheia Bible Church in Black Earth. The church, which holds its services in private homes, advocates the use of corporal punishment using such things as wooden dowels and wooden spoons to discipline children, following the principle of “spare the rod and spoil the child.”
John Caminiti pleaded guilty to causing mental harm to a child, admitting to “shunning” a teenage son by confining him to his bedroom for four weeks for having feelings that the boy described as pressure and fear, according to a criminal complaint. The boy said he had been told not to have feelings, the complaint states.
During the time he was confined to his room, the complaint states, the boy was not allowed to go downstairs or do school work, and meals were brought to him in his room. The boy was ordinarily home-schooled.
Caminiti also pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse, for using dowels on two of his other children when they were disobedient.
In all, eight people associated with Aleitheia Bible Church have been charged with child abuse for their use of corporal punishment on their own children and others. Phil Caminiti, 54, faces eight counts of conspiracy to commit child abuse. His son and daughter-in-law, Matthew and Alina Caminiti, also face several child abuse charges.
Church members Timothy and Maria Stephenson and Timothy and Andrew Wick are also charged with child abuse.