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Former Pastor Gets 32-Month Term

April 03, 2002|JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A former associate pastor at a Canoga Park church was sentenced Tuesday to serve 32 months in state prison for failing to register as a sex offender.

Paul Henry Ilger, 50, of West Hills was taken into custody immediately after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathryne Ann Stoltz sentenced him at the Van Nuys courthouse.

Stoltz rejected defense attorney Edward M. Robinson's plea that Ilger, a former second-grade teacher who was convicted in 1988 of molesting four female students in his San Luis Obispo classroom, be sentenced to probation.

Robinson had said his client is "a significantly changed man" and unlikely to molest other children.

But Stoltz said Ilger put himself into another position of trust by becoming an associate pastor at Hope Chapel of the Valley, a Christian Pentecostal church in Canoga Park. The church announced last month that he was removed from his position.

"He represented himself as somebody who is trustworthy and in this case he lied ... and deceived people," the judge said. Under state law, sex offenders must register annually and each time they change addresses, Deputy Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Andrea Thompson said.

After serving four years in state prison, Ilger moved to the San Fernando Valley but did not notify authorities when he moved.

He pleaded guilty in February to one count of failing to register as a sex offender between June 16, 1992, and June 8, 2001, when Los Angeles police arrested him. Because it was a third-strike conviction, Ilger faced up to 25 years to life in prison. Prosecutors sought at least 32 months in prison.

Robinson said in court that Ilger never tried to conceal his whereabouts from authorities. Nor has he had any other brushes with the law.

But Thompson argued that Ilger concealed his past from neighbors who have a right under state law to know whether a sex offender is living in their midst.

"He lived openly in West Hills as Paul Ilger, pastor of Hope Chapel of the Valley," she said. "What he did hide was that Paul Ilger, convicted child molester, also lived there."

Robert Deyan, 43, of Van Nuys, a former church member, told the court he was upset that he and other church members were not told immediately about Ilger's criminal past.

Deyan told the court that Ilger downplayed the seriousness of his offense, once telling Deyan that he served prison time for his work as an environmental activist.

"Trust is a very important issue," Deyan said. "And trust was violated by Mr. Ilger."

Another former church member, Mark Spicer of Winnetka, 36, said in court that his 11-year-old daughter swam at Ilger's house. "I placed my daughter in this man's trust," he said.

As Stoltz was sentencing Ilger, one of his two daughters, who had been sitting with their mother, was escorted from the courtroom sobbing loudly.

Another woman was removed from the court by sheriff's deputies as she yelled, "He didn't lie!"

Outside the courtroom, the Rev. Jeff Fischer said his church has adopted new safeguards, including background checks for employees.

"We did the best we could with the information we had to protect people," he said.

Fischer and other church members have stood by Ilger and his family since his arrest in June. They wrote letters asking the court for leniency.

Moments before the hearing started Tuesday, a dozen church members, led by Fischer, gathered in the back of the courtroom and prayed with Ilger.

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