Men [of God] at work in South Carolina

28 Mar 2001


AIKEN - A former youth minister who admitted to molesting church members on camping trips and manipulating neighborhood boys with money and gifts during 3 decades has received a 30-year prison sentence.

Robert Dorsett, 65, pleaded guilty to 15 sex crimes involving children during an emotional hearing in which the offenses were read in detail to a hushed courtroom. Some of Dorsett's victims - who range in age now from 9 to 43 - attended the hearing and asked the judge to keep Dorsett from abusing more children. Friends and family members of Dorsett attended the hearing, lining up to speak on his behalf. Many were neighbors or co-workers who called him a father figure and hard worker.

But the judge was not moved by their comments, calling Dorsett a "pitiful old man" whose only good deed was pleading guilty and sparing victims a trial. The sentence makes Dorsett eligible for parole in 10 years, but he is not expected to be paroled that soon.

Dorsett, who was a chemist, admitted to abusing 7 children between 1970 and 1998. None of the offenses was reported to police until 1998, mostly because the children were too embarrassed or were coaxed into not telling, police said.

Dorsett met many of his victims while he was a training director at First Baptist Church in Aug.a years ago. During trips in a church program, he would organize shaving cream fights and have the youths shower together, police said. He encouraged them to go streaking.

One of his victims was a man who grew up to become a doctor. He took his own life 4 months ago after battling depression all his life, according to his sister, who appeared at the hearing, looking directly at Dorsett as she spoke.

The break in the case came last year when a 9-year-old neighbor of Dorsett's told his parents the man had placed his hands on the boy's private parts while he was at Dorsett's house playing video games. The boy also informed officials that a friend had received a Penthouse magazine from Dorsett. That friend later told officials that Dorsett paid him $20 and promised to buy him expensive clothes in exchange for allowing Dorsett to rub the boy's feet and shoulders.

During a search of Dorsett's home, sheriff's officers found a brown suitcase containing X-rated videotapes and magazines along with candy, cookies and other items he gave the children, police said.

Investigators found notebooks where Dorsett kept track of neighborhood boys and their telephone numbers. Publicity about his arrest last year led to new allegations by victims who had tried to forget the abuse, police said.

Dorsett apologized briefly before he was sentenced. He pleaded guilty to 9 counts of child sexual abuse charges and 6 of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The judge sentenced him to 125 years in prison, but all of the sentences will run concurrently with the 30-year sentence on first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

Augusta Chronicle, 11/30/99


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