It was the end of a long road for Ronnie Gorton.
Dressed in a red jumpsuit, his hands together below his waist with his fingers intertwined, he repeated the same word 61 times.
On Friday afternoon the man some call the Pedophile Preacher pleaded guilty to more than five dozen charges including rape, sexual battery by an authority figure, statutory rape by an authority figure, aggravated sexual battery and attempted rape of a child.
The former pastor of The Awakening Church in Munford, last month Gorton was sentenced to 38 years in prison after being convicted of two counts of exploitation of a minor, two counts of contributing to a minor, two counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, seven counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, 10 counts of statutory rape by an authority figure and the continual abuse of a child.
The charges in Friday’s hearing relate to two other cases, which were scheduled for trial this spring.
Those two victims, said Assistant District Attorney General Walt Freeland, would share testimony he called strikingly similar to the victim in the first case.
Each of the victims, including two men who spoke at a sentencing hearing, were young teenagers when the abuse began. Each said Gorton used his position as a pastor and father figure to gain their trust – and, in the case of at least of one of them, used the Bible to justify his actions. Two victims said they were abused nearly every day at Gorton’s home in South Tipton County. The third victim lived in another county and was subjected to Gorton’s abuse on the weekends.
“(The victims) didn’t know it at the time, but the cases were all remarkably similar,” Freeland said. “The victims knew both of the other victims, but they didn’t know they were victims, too.”
He told Walker the best case for prosecution was the one which had already gone to trial. During that trial, Gorton’s former best friend testified when the allegations came to light Gorton admitted to molesting one or more victim and expressed a desire to kill himself.
It took nearly 15 minutes for Judge Joe Walker to read each count and Gorton to enter a plea.
He received an effective sentence of 8 years, which will run concurrent to the sentence handed down last month. And while it didn’t add time – and Gorton is eligible for parole in 17 years – Gorton waived his right to appeal the August conviction. This means the case will not be tied up in the judicial system, said District Attorney General Mark Davidson.
He has been held in solitary confinement in the Tipton County Jail and will now be transferred into the custody of the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Gorton is eligible for parole in 2036.