19 Mar 2009

Elgin pastor: Judge finds him guilty of spanking girl during weekly counseling sessions

Chicago Tribune - March 19, 2009

He did not believe that 12-year-old was sexually abused
|Special to the Tribune

A former Elgin pastor found guilty Wednesday of spanking a girl with a piece of wood in his office admitted he wasn't prepared for the task of counseling a child who claimed to have been sexually abused.

"The situation was over my head," said Rev. Daryl Bujak, who avoided jail time when he was sentenced to 12 months of supervision. "I didn't have the ability to deal with the situation I confronted."

Bujak was found guilty of two counts of battery for spanking the 12-year-old during counseling sessions in 2005 at First Missionary Baptist Church in Elgin. He was accused of beating the girl with a piece of crown molding, in part because he did not believe her allegations.

Bujak was found not guilty of violating a state law that requires clergy members to report allegations of sexual abuse.

"I've spent many hours reflecting on the situation, and I regret some of the things that have taken place," Bujak said before Kane County Judge Allen Anderson sentenced him after a two-day bench trial.

In addition to sentencing Bujak for battery, a misdemeanor, the judge ordered him to perform 80 hours of community service and pay a $350 fine. Bujak is to have no contact with the girl.

The girl's parents approached Bujak in March 2005 after the girl said she had been sexually abused. The mother did not believe the allegations, and neither did Bujak.

It was the start of a series of weekly meetings with Bujak, where the mother would report on her daughter's behavior. Bujak would spank the girl 15 to 25 times, depending on how she had behaved the previous week, the girl and her mother testified.

The mother later believed her daughter's allegations, and in October 2005, Matthew Resh of Ingleside was charged with sexually abusing the girl. He is awaiting trial in McHenry County on five counts of predatory criminal sexual assault.

Bujak's attorney, Ross Bartolotta, argued that the parents had given his client permission to do corporal punishment as part of the counseling.

But the judge rejected Bartolotta's assertion that a clergyman had a right to spank with parental permission.

"The right of corporal punishment would not extend to a teacher who decided to improve the grades of a student by administering weekly spankings," Anderson said.

The girl's testimony, he said, was very credible. "The problems she suffered through, I hope, are past, and I hope she is able to move on," the judge said.

Bujak resigned as pastor in August 2008, a decision that was unrelated to the charges, said Robert Steele, the church's treasurer.

"He just felt the Lord was through with him here," Steele said.

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