ST. GEORGE (AP) — A former Lowcountry pastor will serve at least 17 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of kidnapping and three of criminal sexual conduct.
Dale Richardson entered the plea Wednesday in Dorchester County Court during the second day of his trial on charges stemming from one of the incidents.
Richardson, 49, was accused of kidnapping, binding and raping women in three separate incidents in 2010 and 2011. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and under sentencing guidelines will have to serve at least 17. He has already been in jail for two years.
Richardson had faced up to 30 years in prison on each count.
Richardson, the former pastor of the Freedom Free Will Baptist Church, apologized during the sentencing for the “pain and suffering I’ve caused.” As he did so, both his relatives and accusers wept.
Circuit Judge Maite Murphy told Richardson that while his his victims had put themselves in dangerous situations, they didn’t deserve to be kidnapped and forced to have sex at gunpoint.
“You were the pastor of a church,” the judge said. “Rather than healing the people who most needed it, you took advantage of them in the most horrible way.”
The plea deal allowed Richardson to avoid prosecution for another kidnapping in which he was not accused of rape.
“The victims actually showed more mercy to him by allowing this plea,” prosecutor Glenn Justis said after the hearing.