Men [of God] at work New Jersey

28 Feb 2001


FREEHOLD - A street preacher who helped "society's rejects" has been sentenced to six years in state prison for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in his care.

Superior Court Judge Ira E. Kreizman acknowledged that Michael R. McCarthy, 56, had done some good during his years as a minister. But he told McCarthy he had done "a terrible thing" as the girl's legal guardian.

"There are some lives you have saved," he said. "But there is at least one life that has been ruined by what you have done."

The victim, now 20, told Kreizman that she didn't know what to do when the assaults started. She no longer trusts men, she said.

An evaluation of McCarthy concluded that he was not a repetitive and compulsive sex offender but that he was "opportunistic, hedonistic and exploitive," Kreizman said. "She was the clay, he was the potter," the judge said. "He was able to mold her in the impression he wanted. She was incapable of resisting."

McCarthy first addressed the judge, then turned to the victim and apologized.

"I am terribly sorry for what happened," he said. "It was a horrible event in my life, and I apologize to the victim. I apologize for any hurt or harm I have done. I realize the gravity of what I have done."

McCarthy told Kreizman he was concerned about what would happen to the people he shelters at his Set Free Ministries in Long Branch if he goes to jail. His wife works full time as a flight attendant and is the sole support of the family, he said.

"My concern is not for myself," he said. "I understand I am responsible and have to pay for what I have done."

Shortly after his arrest in 1996, his attorney said McCarthy denied the allegations. McCarthy said the girl - entrusted to his care at age 14 by her father because of family conflicts - invented the charges because his wife was going to punish her for refusing to do household chores.

He pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree sexual assault in Dec. In exchange for the plea - which the victim agreed with - 7 other counts, including one of witness tampering, were dismissed.

As McCarthy was led away in handcuffs, some of his supporters who packed one side of the courtroom began to cry. Others were angry.

"You happy now?" one man said angrily to a woman sitting next to the victim. "Loser," she replied. A court attendant called for order as the victim and her supporters were led out of the courtroom.

Ashbury Park Press, 6/24/2000


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