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Judge: Mahwah minister who had sex with underage congregant ‘not cooperating’ with authorities

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

ONLY ON CVP: A Mahwah youth pastor convicted of sexually abusing a young member of his church has delaying his sentencing by not cooperating with authorities at the state’s treatment facility for sex offenders, a judge in Hackensack said today.

Curtis Franklin is “unwilling to participate in the sex offender treatment” at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian said this morning.

Jerejian originally set last Friday for sentencing Franklin. But that can’t be done until the experts in Avenue fully evaluate him and submit a pre-sentence report to the judge.

If that still isn’t done before August, Jerejian said, “it will have to be postponed until September.”

The problem stems from Franklin’s insistence that he’s innocent and refusal to cooperate, the judge said.

“I understand your feelings about your conviction,” he said to Franklin, who was transferred to the Bergen County Jail late last week in anticipation of his sentencing. “But until that’s resolved you need to be amenable to treatment.”

As CLIFFVIEW PILOT exclusively reported on Monday, a dispute between Franklin and his previous laywer — along with the issue at Avenue — forced the postponement of the sentencing.

Franklin already is serving an eight-year prison sentence for  sexually abusing the woman’s youngster sister, who also was underage.

A previous prosecution in the recent case ended in a mistrial, leading to a retrial that ended with the April conviction.

The 47-year-old former assistant pastor at the Mahwah Full Gospel Church faces lifetime parole as a registered Megan’s Law offender if he is ever released from state custody. He is appealing both convictions.

Jerejian today gave Franklin permission to hire a new lawyer for what is now scheduled as an Aug. 14 sentencing in Hackensack.

That attorney, Michael Paul, said Franklin had received “bad legal advice.” His client, he promised the judge, “will now embrace the treatment.”

During the trial, Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kenneth Ralph outlined a long-term relationship “conducted in secret” in several places over four years, beginning when the girl was 12.

The woman, now 29, told jurors she “thought that it was love, something special between us,” then later felt like a sinner.

The encounters occurred in Franklin’s tow truck, the bedroom of his house after his wife left early for work, her bedroom, in parking lots, on secluded roads, and in Oregon when she saved money from her summer job working for Franklin’s father-in-law at Speedway 17 in Mahwah and went to visit him and his family for six weeks — when she was 14 — she said.

Franklin’s lawyer at the time said it was purely a “he said/she said” case.

STORY / PHOTO: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

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