Gavel

A man who was in a position of trust or authority as a minister will not serve any time in prison after pleading guilty to touching a child for lustful purposes.

Jonathan Tucker, 43, of New Albany, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but the sentence was suspended, giving him no years to serve.

A charge of sexual battery and a charge of enticement of a child against Tucker were dismissed.

The indictment said that Tucker inappropriately touched a child under the age of 18 between April 27, 2013 and April 27, 2016.

Tucker was in a position of trust or authority over the victim as a minister, the indictment said.

Tucker was placed on probation for five years and must register as a sex offender.

He must also seek counseling for the next two years and pay costs of $4,643.

Tucker was sentenced Sept. 2 by Union County Circuit Court Judge Kent Smith.

Tucker’s attorney, Tony Farese of Ashland, said the victim initiated the relationship with Tucker.

The victim was 17 years old at the time of the event, Farese added.

Normally, the age of consent in Mississippi is 16 years old. But if the defendant is in a position of trust or authority the age of consent is 18, Farese said.

Tucker had no prior criminal history, and the victim did not want him prosecuted or incarcerated, Farese said. 

Farese introduced into evidence an audio statement and a video recorded statement of the victim saying she did not want Tucker prosecuted or incarcerated.

Farese felt that the suspended sentence was appropriate based on the victim's desire to not see Tucker prosecuted or sent to prison.

Judge Smith referenced two other similar cases where suspended sentences had been given to people in positions of trust in Union County, Farese said.

In another case, a Walls man will serve one year in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of statutory rape.

Edgar Fernandez was sentenced to 10 years in prison but nine were suspended, leaving one year to serve.

The indictment states that Fernandez engaged in sexual penetration with a 14-year-old female when he was 22 years old.

The incident occurred in July of 2015.

Fernandez will also serve five years of supervised probation and four years of unsupervised probation. He was ordered to pay costs of $3,228.

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