HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — A former Henrico youth pastor will serve two months total for multiple charges of sex crimes after he entered multiple Alford pleas.
Aaron Thomas Payne, 21, was arrested in 2016 after he was accused of having a sexual relationship with a child in his care at the church. Investigators said he took indecent liberties with a minor on several occasions while he was in a custodial role at the Henrico church.
Payne was originally charged with five counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.
He entered an Alford plea to a reduced charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor (down from felony indecent acts with child) and received a suspended sentence.
He also entered an Alford plea to misdemeanor sexual battery, down from felony second indecent acts, and received 12 months with 10 suspended.
The other three counts of indecent acts have been set aside for now.
Court documents showed the alleged crimes happened between July and October of 2014 when Payne was 18 years old and serving as the lead youth pastor at the church.
Henrico Police said they were made aware of the allegations on July 12, 2016 by the victim’s guardian.
Payne, who now lives in West Virginia, was arrested in October and extradited to Virginia.
Payne was serving as a youth pastor with Princeton First Assembly of God in Princeton, West Virginia. All the charges brought against him were from Henrico.
CBS 6 reached out to the Henrico church about the incident at the time, and they said “We support the family,” in reference to the victim in the case.
The Appalachian Ministry Network, which includes the Princeton First Assembly of God, released a statement about Payne’s arrest to CBS 6 affiliate Fox59.
“When Mr. Payne became a minister and during the time he was working with teenagers in our network, there were no indications of endangerment to minors in his history.
Regardless of the outcome of the legal proceedings, Mr. Payne will undergo an ecclesiastical investigatory hearing regarding his ministerial credentials. Until that hearing is conducted, he is not permitted to perform any ministerial duties regardless of his incarceration status.”
The church said they are fully cooperating with law enforcement agencies on any such matters.