Pastor Takes Plea

By Eddie Fitzgerald
Wilson Daily [North Carolina]
July 25, 2006

A former minister charged with 98 counts of incest pleaded no contest Monday in Wilson County Superior Court to eight counts of felonious incest. All other charges were dropped.

Nathaniel Rasberry, 36, of Kenly was sentenced to no less than 121/2 years and a maximum of 15 years in state prisons. Each count carried a sentence of 19 months to 23 months. He was also ordered to pay court costs and his attorney's fees.

Rasberry, a former World Vision Outreach Center pastor, entered court wearing a white shirt and gray pants. He sat quietly and emotionless during the proceedings.

It was agreed through a plea bargain that all other charges against Rasberry would be dropped. Besides the additional charges of incest, he had been charged with communicating threats, assault on a female, two counts of sex offense while in a parental role, nine counts of assault inflicting serious injury and 17 counts of statutory rape.

Bill Wolf, assistant district attorney, said the abuse started when the two victims were about 14 and went on for five or six years before the girls ran away from home.

Both of the victims are now about 20 or 21 years old, Wolf said.

When Rasberry was arrested, the warrant listed the dates of the sex offenses as between 1999 and 2005.

After running away from home, one of the victims went to New Jersey, and the other fled to relatives in Edgecombe County, Wolf said.

The victim who went to New Jersey told police there about the abuse. The Hillside, N.J., Police Department began an investigation with the Wilson County Sheriff's Office in 2005, Wolf said.

Rasberry went to one victim's place of employment in New Jersey, and was later arrested in Rocky Mount. A search of his vehicle turned up a .38 caliber handgun, gloves and a map of New Jersey, Wolf said.

At first Rasberry said he did not abuse his accusers, then he said it was consensual and happened just prior to his arrest. The women said it was against their will, Wolf said.

One of the victims had an abortion in 2000. Rasberry and his wife took her to the clinic to have the procedure done, Wolf said.

But Rasberry denied she was pregnant with his child. His attorney, Randy Hughes, said the woman was seeing another man at the time of the abortion.

Hughes said Rasberry denied any sexual activity with the women until just prior to his arrest last year.

"This is obviously a very tragic situation," Hughes said. "... He is not trying to make any excuses. Nathaniel (Rasberry) understands he has to pay for what he has done."

Rasberry served six years in the Army as a combat engineer and had a good work record when he worked at Firestone and Food Lion, and he was involved in Project Chance to help at-risk children, Hughes said.

"Nathaniel made a monumental transgression, and he can only ask for forgiveness," Hughes said.

When the judge asked Rasberry if he would like to say anything, Rasberry said he was sorry to his wife and asked for her forgiveness. But he said he held no bitterness against his accusers, saying he forgave them.

Judge Tom Haywood seemed irritated that Rasberry would say that.

"Are you saying you forgive" the victims, Haywood asked.

Hughes said his client might have been misunderstood. He explained that Rasberry had no bitterness against his accusers because he felt he was not at fault, Hughes said.

Hughes said he was satisfied with the outcome of the case.

"These are always tragic cases," Hughes said. "Nobody wins. It is a lose-lose situation."

Rasberry's wife, Katie, was scheduled for court Monday for charges of obstructing and delaying an officer in the line of duty and felony child abuse. But that case did not go before the judge. | 265-7820


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