Oregon religious leader convicted of child sexual abuse sentenced to 13 years in prison

Jun 21, 2023, 2:03 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon religious leader convicted multiple times of sexually abusing a former church member when she was a child has been sentenced to more than 13 years in prison.

Circuit Judge Andrew Lavin sentenced Michael Sperou Tuesday for two counts of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. The judge granted Sperou credit for time served in previous cases but said he is ineligible for other sentence reduction programs and ordered him to register as a sex offender.

Prosecutors declined to bring charges against Sperou in 1997 when seven women and girls accused him of sexual abuse but indicted him in 2014 after revisiting the cases. By then, only one case was within the statute of limitations. Sperou was the longtime leader of the Christian North Clackamas Bible Community in Happy Valley, and is still listed as senior pastor on its website.

Sperou was convicted in the 2015 trial by an 11-1 jury vote. In 2020 though, it was overturned because witnesses referred to the women as “victims” and the U.S. Supreme Court banned non-unanimous verdicts.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Steven Sherlag said Sperou maintains his innocence and plans to appeal his conviction because the third trial included testimony from two women whose accusations were past the statute of limitations. Sperou didn’t speak during sentencing Tuesday.

“He will return to court for a fourth trial,” Sherlag said.

Sherlag unsuccessfully tried during sentencing to convince a judge to grant bail and allow Sperou to remain out of custody to plan an appeal.

Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Chuck Mickley argued against it, saying Sperou has continued to prey on his congregation by developing an inappropriate relationship with a woman who has a 10-year-old daughter.

Prosecutors have said Sperou exerts extraordinary control over day-to-day aspects of members’ lives.

“I’m very concerned about a child still living in the congregation,” Lavin said.

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Oregon religious leader convicted of child sexual abuse sentenced to 13 years in prison