A Jacksonville youth pastor has entered guilty pleas to three counts of charges related to accusations that he had sex with a 15-year-old girl from his church. David Lawson pleaded guilty last week to three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child between the ages of 12 and 16, according to a report on First Coast News. Each count is a second-degree felony in Duval County and carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison. So, if the judge chooses to apply consecutive sentences in this Jacksonville Sex Crimes case, Lawson could be facing 45 years in prison.
Lawson is scheduled to be sentenced next month. No details of the plea were included in the television news report, though it’s very possible that the plea is a result of negotiations between the state and the Jacksonville sex crime defense team and that a sentencing range will be offered to the judge. The ultimate decision lies with the judge, but in most cases where the two sides come to an agreed upon range, the judge with stay within those terms. In many Duval County Sex Crimes cases like this, a plea is worked out because the state does not want to have to put a young victim through a trial if he or she is not comfortable. That doesn’t mean prosecutors offer light sentences to avoid a trial – they do not. But in many cases, the defendant also wants to avoid a long, public trial that, in Lawson’s case, would no doubt receive plenty of media attention given his former position in the community.
Shortly after police started investigating Lawson late last year, he was fired by his church. Lawson was arrested in January and has been out on Duval County bond while his Jacksonville Sex Crimes case works its way through the court system. Regardless of the eventual sentence and whether he goes to prison or not, Lawson will no doubt be a registered sex offender and will likely have a condition of his eventual probation that does not allow him to work with children again. As a registered sex offender, Lawson would have to register by filling out a form at the sheriff’s office at least every six months with his address, phone numbers, place of employment, etc. And if he were to ever move, he must update the information within 48 hours or face criminal charges. If a registered sexual offender does move into a new residence, his neighbors are notified and everyone knows what crime he pleaded guilty to, regardless of long ago it may have been. People convicted of sex crimes face more scrutiny after they’ve served time than defendants of any other crime. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes attorney will explain all of the ramifications of a guilty plea or possible conviction so you or your loved one can make the best decision in the case going forward.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Duval County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.