In 2008, a youth pastor named Jason Greathouse, then 24, moved into the Alabama home of a family with a 14-year-old girl. Greathouse eventually raped that girl and impregnated her. At the urging of her parents, the story went, the two of them got married. It didn’t go well — shocker — and they divorced a year later.
In 2020, that victim, then in her late 20s and more aware of what happened to her when she was a child, filed rape charges against Greathouse. He faced up to 20 years in prison.
But this past October, thanks to a plea deal crafted by his attorneys — and, more importantly, agreed to by the prosecutors — he was sentenced to… 0 minutes in prison and unsupervised probation for two years. He also wouldn’t have to register as a sex offender.
Why would the prosecution ever agree to a deal like that?
At the time, they suggested there were damning details that could have hurt their case had it gone to trial:
Coffee County District Attorney Tom Anderson said Friday his office made the deal because “there were extenuating circumstances that would have been allowed to be presented by the defense that very likely could have resulted in a mistrial or even a not guilty [verdict] by jury nullification.”
Anderson said there are now “issues pertaining to custody/visitation that the defense would argue are the motivation for reporting [the alleged rape] many years later.”
The DA said potential jurors could have made the same conclusion.
In case that’s not clear, the implication was that there were custody issues involving their child, and everyone seemed to think the mother’s unhappiness with their arrangement — and not the actual abuse — was the primary motivator for filing the rape charge.
That victim, for what it’s worth, opposed the plea deal, telling a reporter at the time that the punishment was the equivalent of “buying beer for a minor.”
Greathouse’s attorney celebrated the victory with this tone-deaf statement:
“Anytime I have a client walk out of a courthouse with a misdemeanor instead of a felony I’m wonderfully satisfied,” said David Harrison, Greathouse’s attorney.
Nothing makes this guy smile more than a rapist who gets away with it… Weird thing to brighten your day, but maybe that’s just me.
(On a side note, it was very troubling that WTVY described the “relationship” — which, again, began when the victim was 14 — as a “consensual sexual relationship.” When you’re 14 and the other person is 24, consent in any meaningful sense of the word goes out the window. It was rape.)
I wrote the bulk of everything you read above shortly after Greathouse got the plea deal he wanted.
Now, Emily Shugerman of The Daily Beast has a follow-up story with some details we didn’t know about earlier. While the identity of the mother wasn’t a secret, we never really got to hear the full story of what happened.
Ash Pereira (below) is speaking out today because the people around her were never looking out for her best interests, and some of those people are now, still, trying to defend their horrific actions.
The battle has now pitted mother against daughter, with Pereira claiming her mother was the driving force behind her childhood marriage and her mother claiming Pereira is simply out for blood.
“I really feel for my daughter, I really do,” Pereira’s mother, Jennie Jett, told The Daily Beast. “[But] people don’t understand everything that happened.”
Religion, of course, is a major part of the problem.
Pereira says that, growing up, she had “the fear of hell absolutely burned into our heads.” When she struggled with an eating disorder at the age of 13, for example, her parents didn’t get her any medical help. They turned to Jesus instead. (Pereira’s mother told The Daily Beast that the girl was “not cooperative” with counselors.)
That’s when Greathouse came into their lives. He was the sort of pastor her parents trusted — and he quickly ingratiated himself with Ash, who saw the youth pastor as an adult with whom she connected.
Because Greathouse couldn’t afford to rent his own place, Ash’s parents offered him the spare bedroom in their home. Ash was homeschooled, so the two of them spent a lot of time together, and Greathouse soon began abusing that trust. The sexual assaults began when she was 14 and led to her impregnation at 15.
After her mother found out about the situation, instead of filing charges against Greathouse or (at the very least) kicking him out of their home, she blamed her daughter for not thinking through the Christian consequences of it all:
“She was like, ‘Well, you’re supposed to save this for marriage, and [now] you’ve given your body to someone and you need to take responsibility for your own actions,’” [Ash] recalled.
Her mother recalls the situation differently. She claims Pereira lied about her age to Greathouse and only sought out her mother to confess her deception after the fact. She says she never blamed her daughter and held Greathouse “accountable,” though she did not specify how.
“I remember when I told him [her age], he just about fell apart and was shaking,” she said. “I believe 100 percent that he did not know.”
In Alabama, the age of consent is 16. To accept the mother’s version of the story here, you’d have to believe Ash lied about her age, that Greathouse wasn’t tipped off by whatever the hell she was studying in school, that he didn’t know her age despite allegedly teaching her how to drive, and that he never bothered to verify this simple vital fact before assaulting her.
More to the point: Even if he thought it was legal, why on earth did he think it was ethical?! What 24- or 25-year-old is going after a 16-year-old (who was actually 14)?! And why was her family not horrified by the predatory nature of all that?!
Ash’s brother told Shugerman that their mother was more pleased by the possibility of becoming a grandmother than disturbed by how that situation arose.
The family — and Ash herself — agreed that marriage was the proper course of action. The mother says the wedding was Ash’s idea, not hers, but when you’ve indoctrinated your kids into Purity Culture, pretending that Ash was capable of understanding the consequences of all this is absurd.
The wedding occurred days after she turned 16 and it didn’t take long for things to turn sour. Ash confided about her unhappiness to her fellow employees at a restaurant they worked at and eventually hired a divorce lawyer with the little money she had to her name. Because of a lack of resources to keep fighting in court, she had to settle for shared custody with no child support.
It was only in 2020 that Greathouse went to court seeking full custody of their child. His side says that’s what prompted her to file the rape charges, though Ash insists she did it because, until then, she wasn’t even aware filing charges was an option.
Greathouse and his attorneys have repeatedly argued that Pereira only reported him to get the upper hand in their custody dispute; to “use the circumstances of the child’s conception as a way to force a change in custody,” as one court filing put it. But Pereira is adamant that her reasoning was more complicated. To start with, she says, she didn’t even know she could press charges until after the latest custody battle started. And even then, she says, the point of reporting him wasn’t to win a legal fight, but to earn her freedom.
“I don’t want to have to ask my rapist’s permission for things,” she added. “No one should ever have to do that.”
For the time being, though, she will have to keep asking him for permission. Their daughter is now 14, the same age Ash was when she was sexually assaulted. And not a damn thing of consequence has happened to her assailant — at least outside a handful of stories discussing this case.
Because Greathouse was never convicted of rape, he’s been able to play the role of a father just looking out for his daughter. And because Ash may not have been a “perfect victim” in the eyes of a jury, the obvious facts about how old she was when she was raped and the troubling circumstances that led to her pregnancy were deemed irrelevant, even by her own lawyers.
The bottom line here is that a Christian pastor who took advantage of an underage girl over a decade ago was able to escape any serious consequences thanks to a series of irresponsible decisions by her family, bad laws, and a pathetic justice system. Religion made everything even worse, taking what should have been a legal and criminal matter and turning it into something sacred that’s bound together by Jesus.
Today, no one is better off as a result.