Former pastor will go to prison for sexually assaulting 15-year-old boy in Madison motel room

2013-01-08T05:15:00Z 2014-12-18T13:17:59Z Former pastor will go to prison for sexually assaulting 15-year-old boy in Madison motel roomED TRELEVEN | Wisconsin State Journal | etreleven@madison.com | 608-252-6134 madison.com

A former church pastor from Clark County was sentenced Monday to 1½ years in prison for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy whom he met in an Internet chat room for gay teens.

Ervin S. Witmer, 51, of Owen, who was pastor of a church in Stanley until 2011 and was Wisconsin district manager for a Christian book distributor until February, told Dane County Circuit Judge Rebecca St. John that he has "deep remorse" for his "inappropriate behavior with this young man" in a Madison motel room.

But St. John said that Witmer committed a serious crime that traumatized the boy and caused him psychological confusion.

"This has been described as a moment of weakness," St. John said, "but it wasn't just a moment."

Instead, she said, Witmer talked with the boy over the Internet and became aware that he had been sexually abused as a youngster by an uncle before arranging to meet him at the Super 8 Motel on Madison's Far East Side when he was in town on business.

St. John said Witmer revictimized the boy by claiming that he had been trying to counsel him, and instead gave in to temptation, in essence blaming the boy for his own "moment of weakness." She said Witmer also downplayed his actions when describing them to a consulting psychologist involved in his case.

"What ultimately determines your dangerousness is your minimization," St. John said. "You've got a long way to go before you accept responsibility for what you did."

In addition to time in prison, Witmer will serve 8½ years of extended supervision. He must also register as a sex offender.

Witmer pleaded guilty in October to one count of second-degree sexual assault of a child. Two other counts were dismissed but St. John was allowed to consider them for sentencing purposes.

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