UNION — After four days of testimony and deliberations of nearly six hours a jury found a local minister guilty of having sex with an underage girl three years ago.
Stephen Douglas Berry, 38, 848 Bob Little Road, Jonesville, was found guilty Friday evening of criminal sexual conduct with a minor second-degree and sentenced by Judge John G. Hayes of York to 15 years in prison.
Berry, the former associate pastor of New Life Baptist Church, was arrested in 2011 and charged by the Union County Sheriff’s Office with repeatedly having sex with the victim, who was 15 at the time, between May 2010 and November 2010. His case was first brought to trial in July but the jury was unable to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared.
The case was again brought to trial on Tuesday and continued until early Friday afternoon. Union County Clerk of Court Freddie Gault said the jury began deliberations around 12:30 p.m. but twice returned to the courtroom to again hear testimony given by the victim and by a witness. He said they continued their deliberations until around 6:15 p.m. when they came out and announced their verdict.
Gault said that Berry was taken into custody by deputies and transported to the Union County Jail where he will remain until Monday when he will be taken to the S.C. Department of Corrections in Columbia.
Since his arrest for criminal sexual conduct with a minor second-degree, Berry was arrested again in April 2011 by the sheriff’s office for sex/lewd act upon a child under 16 for allegedly inappropriately touching a 13-year-old girl on numerous occasions during the summer of 2008. A few months later he was arrested by the Union Public Safety Department for criminal sexual conduct third-degree for allegedly engaging in sexual battery of the victim between February 1 and July 8 of 2011. Unlike the two previous cases, the victim was not a minor but was described in the incident report as being mentally defective.
The sex/lewd act upon a child under 16 charge is still pending, but the criminal sexual conduct third-degree charge was dismissed in August 2012 after the victim died.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.