“The former pastor of a Medford church was solemn, weeping at one point and sniffling often, as he admitted in court Friday that he sexually assaulted or abused five minors over a 14-year period.
Harry L. Thomas, 74, of Queens Lane in Medford, will likely die in prison after he agreed to a plea deal before Superior Court Judge Jeanne T. Covert that would have him serve 15 to 20 years without parole.
Thomas, founder of the Come Alive New Testament Church on Old Marlton Pike, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated sexual assault, three counts of sexual assault, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
Under the deal, the state will argue that he serve 20 years; the defense will seek 15 years. Thomas’ sentencing is tentatively scheduled for June. He had faced the possibility of up to 25 years for first-degree aggravated sexual assault and 10 years each on the other charges, Covert told him.
When questioned by his attorney, Anthony Aldorasi, Thomas admitted to the sexual assault of a 9-year-old in 2005; sexual contact with three girls who were 7, 8 and 9, in 2000 and 2010; and exposing himself and endangering the welfare of a girl between 2008 and 2010, when she was 8 to 10 years old.
All of the crimes occurred in Medford, according to comments in court. Any additional information about the victims was withheld to protect their identities, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. The office also would not comment on whether the victims were church members.
Aldorasi said although Thomas could not recall the exact dates of the offenses, he did not dispute the allegations. Thomas pleaded guilty before being indicted on any charges, waiving his right to grand jury proceedings. Both sides indicated that he wanted to plead guilty quickly out of consideration for the victims and their families, some of whom were in court.
Thomas will be evaluated to determine if he should undergo treatment as a repetitive and compulsive sexual offender. He will also be subject to Megan’s Law requirements, including registering as a sex offender.
Thomas, who has been in jail since his arrest in December, told the judge he has had serious health problems, including strokes and congestive heart failure. He was sniffling throughout the proceedings, but told Covert he was in a clear mind frame in admitting his guilt.
On its website, the church posted: “Harry Thomas has officially resigned all associations and ministry roles with Come Alive New Testament Church, Creation Festivals and Come Alive International, effective immediately. The leadership of these organizations have accepted Mr. Thomas’ resignation as the proper course of action and will continue to actively cooperate with the authorities. While we are unable to share the details of what was reported, we have been informed that the charges are not related to any of his roles in these ministries.”
Thomas founded the church in 1973 and also was the co-founder and director of the Creation Festival, a Christian music event held annually for 40 years.”