A former Southern Baptist pastor in South Dakota was sentenced Sept. 27 to 46 months in prison for attempted trafficking of what he believed to be a 15-year-old girl.
Joseph Raleigh, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Miller, S.D., pleaded guilty June 28 in federal court to Attempted Trafficking with Respect to Involuntary Servitude and Forced Labor, a federal law making it a crime to recruit or transport persons for forced labor.
Raleigh, 35, an Ohio native who served as pastor of Hysham Baptist Church in Hysham, Mont., before moving to South Dakota in 2013, was arrested Oct. 24, 2015, in a sting by federal, state and local agencies after negotiating a deal on the Internet with an undercover officer posing as a pimp to have sex with a 15-year-old girl. He resigned as pastor of the 50-member Southern Baptist church within a day of his arrest.
The guilty plea was part of a deal with prosecutors reducing the crime from stiffer charges of Attempted Commercial Sex Trafficking of Children and Attempted Enticement of a Minor Using the Internet.
Due to his lack of criminal history and other factors, his recommended sentence ranged from 30 to 37 months, but U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange increased it to nearly four years in prison, finding that as a pastor Raleigh had violated a position of trust.
Raleigh was ordered to pay a $100 assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. An additional $5,000 assessment to the Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund was waived because the sentencing judge found the defendant to be indigent.
Raleigh faces arraignment Oct. 4 in state court on charges related to the same incident, but the federal public defender told the Capital-Journal newspaper in Pierre, S.D., those charges are expected to be dismissed as part of the plea agreement.