Former Canby pastor pleads guilty to sex abuse, sentenced to jail time
In a full courtroom on Tuesday, the former pastor of Canby First Baptist Church and principal of First Baptist School was handcuffed and taken into custody after he pleaded guilty to four of the original nine counts of sexual abuse as the result of a plea agreement.
On July 3, 2018, six years after the abuse of a minor female, Judge Michael Wetzel found Lee Wiegand guilty of four counts of sexual abuse in the second degree and dismissed the other five counts as agreed upon by District Attorney Scott Healy and Wiegand's attorney Michael Clancy. Per the indictment, two of the counts were for sexual intercourse and the other two were for differing methods of sexual intercourse.
"This was a significantly negotiated case," Healy said at the hearing.
Each of the counts carry a maximum penalty of five years' incarceration, according to Wetzel, but Wiegand was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 36 months of formal probation, during which he must complete a sexual abuse package. The package dictates that Wiegand must not have contact with the victim or with any persons under the age of 18, he must complete sexual abuse treatment and register as a sex offender.
"I realize the defendant has been involved in the church significantly in his life, but I don't think church is going to be part of his life anymore because there are kids there at the church..." -District Attorney Scott Healy
"He can't be a part of working with children in any capacity—Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, at the zoo, things like that," Healy said. "It includes Sunday School, your honor, too. I realize the defendant has been involved in the church significantly in his life, but I don't think church is going to be part of his life anymore because there are kids there at the church, so certainly the probation officer will have conversations with him about that."
The agreement comes after Wiegand received a psychosexual evaluation, deeming him "amenable to treatment."
Following sentencing, Healy commented on the penalty.
"He has as much as 86 months in prison hanging over his head..." -District Attorney Scott Healy
"He is going to be now a convicted sex offender for the rest of his life, with four Class C felonies on his record that can never be expunged and, as a registered sex offender, his life will significantly change from this point forward," Healy said. "If he does not do exactly what the probation officer asks throughout his three-year formal probation, certainly the probation can be extended. But if he violates for some reason, and his probation is revoked, he has as much as 86 months in prison hanging over his head…So, hopefully that will be a significant incentive for him to engage in offense-free behavior in the community once he is out of jail."
During the hearing, Healy outlined the details of the abuse that occurred between January 2012 and June 2012 when the victim was 17 years old and Wiegand was 57-58 years old.
"...Touching started out as kind of just long hugs between the defendant and she, and then fist bumps, to kind of holding hands and touching thighs, to then ultimately laying on top of her bed, to getting under the covers and then to full-blown sexual intercourse." -District Attorney Scott Healy
During her senior year, the victim was staying at Wiegand's home and attending the small Christian school where Wiegand was the principal. Wiegand's wife had just passed away and he was caring for his child, who has mental health issues. The victim had also recently lost a grandparent, so the relationship grew out of the two comforting one another.
"The victim described how touching started out as kind of just long hugs between the defendant and she," Healy said, "and then fist bumps, to kind of holding hands and touching thighs, to then ultimately laying on top of her bed, to getting under the covers and then to full-blown sexual intercourse."
The victim, who moved to Florida for college after her senior year, revealed in a statement to the court via phone that she remained quiet about the abuse because Wiegand had told her to not to tell.
"I spent the last few months of my senior year having the defendant tell me, 'Don't tell anyone. They won't understand our relationship.'" -sexual abuse victim
"I spent my senior year being convinced that a sexual relationship with my principal and pastor, who I was living with as a boarding student, was a good thing," the victim said. "Rather than finishing high school with great memories as I prepared to go to school in Florida, my senior year ended up being full of terrible memories that haunted me as I was manipulated and lied to by the defendant.
"I spent the last few months of my senior year having the defendant tell me, 'Don't tell anyone. They won't understand our relationship,'" the victim continued. "I was told over and over again in words and in actions that this relationship was a good thing, but I was always told to not talk about it. As I graduated and moved on with my life and tried to adjust into my new normal, in the back of my head, all I could hear was the defendant saying, 'Don't tell anyone. They won't understand.'"
But she couldn't stop thinking about it, and seeing Wiegand at different times over the years since the abuse exacerbated the emotional trauma she felt.
"Each time I saw him, my mind would instantly go back to lying in bed next to this man who convinced me that something which was so wrong, inappropriate and ultimately detrimental to my perspective of love, authority and relationships, was a good thing," she said. "He also skewed my view of people in general. Seeing him also reminds me of the nights I would lie awake terrified because I didn't understand how I ended up there, lying in bed with him."
Then in 2015, after Wiegand had remarried, he came to visit the victim when she was in the hospital; he sat on the end of her bed and put his hand on her foot, and that's when she began to see how much his abuse had impacted her.
"That single touch flooded my mind with all of the traumatizing memories from my senior year of high school," the victim said in her statement. "I felt so violated by that one single touch because it carried such a powerful reminder of what happened."
Around that time, she told Bob Yoder that Wiegand had done things that made him unfit for the pulpit, but didn't disclose any details.
Then in 2017, when Wiegand was accused by a separate victim, Yoder put two and two together, and he called the victim.
"It was time to stop hiding what had been done to me..." -sexual abuse victim
"This is when I had to relive one of the darkest seasons of my life, but I knew that it was time," the victim said. "It was time to stop hiding what had been done to me…I had tried convincing myself that it was my fault and that I shouldn't say anything because I brought it on myself. But I was 17. I was young and naïve, and the defendant took advantage of me, of the situation and of my trust. After countless nightmares of what the defendant had done to me, I can finally begin to move on."
She added, "While nothing will ever take away the emotional trauma I endured, I know that even if it prevents just one young girl from being a victim of his, my pain is worth it."
Healy told the court that he continued to pursue the case because he received letters from the community indicating that Wiegand was controlling, "handsy" with other members of the church and emotionally abusive. He also found that there may be a third victim of abuse occurring in the late 1980s to early 1990s. He said his detective has not been able to locate the victim in this case.
After the sentencing, Clancy spoke on behalf of Wiegand, saying, "This is a serious black mark on what otherwise would be an exemplary life that he's led."
Wiegand also took the chance to speak briefly in court.
"I'd just like to say I'm sorry for the things that happened and sorry for the things that I do," Wiegand said.
Following the hearing, one person in attendance, who opted to remain anonymous, wanted to make sure The Herald knew that those in attendance were there for "the girls."
Wiegand's wife, who had been smiling and leaning her head on Wiegand's shoulder before the hearing, declined to comment.