BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - 37-year-old Jonathan Michael Bailey of New Orleans pleaded guilty to 2 counts of sexual battery of a child under the age of 14 in a Biloxi courtroom Friday.
Bailey was a youth pastor at an area church in New Orleans. According to reports, students in his youth group reported inappropriate behavior between Bailey and a 13-year-old member of the group back in 2015.
“The brave actions of the youth, who reported the inappropriate behavior of Bailey toward the child, led to the discovery of ongoing sexual abuse that had occurred over the course of months both at the church in New Orleans and here in Biloxi,” said Assistant District Attorney Ian Baker, who prosecuted the case.
During the investigation, the victim told officials Bailey lavished the child with attention, gifts and promises of a future together.
According to reports, much of the abuse occurred at the church in New Orleans in 2015 until Bailey took a youth group on a retreat to the Seashore United Methodist Retreat Center here in Biloxi. Prior to this trip, Bailey told the victim to come to his room after everyone else was asleep.
Officials say Bailey later confessed his actions in a recorded interview.
“Time after time during the course of this abuse, the defendant made intentional and unconscionable choices to manipulate and groom his relationship with the child to ultimately lead to the crimes for which he has been convicted," said DA Joel Smith. "His repeated abuse of the trust that was given to him by the family, his church and the community will leave lasting scars. However, the strength and courage demonstrated by the victim throughout the process and especially today are a shining example of hope to those who may be victimized in the future.”
In March 2015, Bailey was arrested and prosecuted by Louisiana with a hold to be transferred to Mississippi once the prosecution was complete. Bailey was sentenced to serve 10 years in the Louisiana Department of Corrections. Following his conviction in Louisiana, the Harrison County DA’s Office applied for Bailey to be transferred to Harrison County to face prosecution here. He was transferred in late 2018.
After accepting Bailey’s guilty plea on 2 counts of sexual battery, Judge Clark heard from the victim, members of the victim’s family and from Bailey and his family. Judge Clark expressed to Bailey that “through his actions, he had broken the trust of the victim, the church and his own family, and now he would have to face the consequences of his actions".
Bailey was sentenced to 50 years with 27 years suspended, leaving him to serve 23 years without the possibility of parole or early release. Following his release, he must complete 5 years of post-release supervision, register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and have no contact with the victim.
He will now be returned to Louisiana to complete his sentence there. Upon completion of his Louisiana sentence, will be transferred to the Mississippi Department of Corrections for the duration of his sentence.