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A pastor is heading to prison after saying he began sexually abusing a little girl because he mistakenly thought she was his wife.

David A. Walker was sentenced last week to 4.5 years behind bars after abusing the victim for two years beginning when she was only 14. He will also have to register as a sex offender. It comes after a lengthy career in promoting Christianity and more than a year after he pleaded guilty to the charges.

Walker, who preached at Church Alive International in Cleveland and then at The Dwelling Place Family Worship Center in North Olmsted, pleaded guilty in March to six counts of attempted sexual battery and one count of endangering children in connection with multiple incidents of sexual abuse that investigators said took place from 2003 to 2007.

Walker’s wife, Anna, pleaded guilty the same day to one count of assault and one count of endangering children after admitting that she participated in one incident of sexual abuse when the girl was 17. Kilbane sentenced her to one year of probation, saying she acted at the behest of her husband.

Walker also was a teacher and coach at the now-closed Cleveland Christian Academy. The victim had been a member at both churches he worked at.

According to court records, Walker told the judge this began as a “random, innocent accident.” He was leading a youth group at a church-sponsored lock-in when the victim ended up sleeping next to him. Claiming he believed she was his wife, he began “rubbing her” and didn’t figure out she wasn’t his wife until the morning.

None of that explains why the abuse continued long after that, or why several other girls who were teenagers in his church at the time said he was also sexually inappropriate with them. (He denied all those other allegations.)

Walker’s attorney attempted to have his sentence reduced to simply probation, but the judge wasn’t having any of it.

[Aaron] Schwartz asked [Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Ashley] Kilbane to sentence Walker to probation, citing health problems that include sleep apnea and diabetes. He said the crimes Walker admitted occurred nearly 20 years ago and he has not been accused of any other crimes since.

“All that means is that for 20 years he’s enjoyed life and escaped justice and detection,” Kilbane said.

From that perspective, a four-year sentence is light. Though if his Christian supporters had their way, he would’ve received no punishment at all. They sent letters to the judge describing him as a “good man” and “devoted Christian,” as if “good” people accidentally abuse little children for many years and as if being a “devoted Christian” should confer immunity for sex crimes.

None of them seemed to care that he sexually assaulted the victim at all, including in the basement of the church.

The victim is in her 30s now and said before the sentencing that Walker urged her to become his second wife. He also asked her to continue having sex with him after she got married because that was God’s plan.

“You used your flexible schedule from the pulpit to get your hands in my pants,” the woman said. “Are you sorry, or are you sorry that you got caught?”

The woman said she forgave the Walkers. And that her faith was stronger than ever.

“I won’t lose my faith over your moral failure,” she said.

If you can, check out the picture at Cleveland.com of Walker learning he’s about to go to prison. He’s shocked. He can’t believe it. He seriously thought being a pastor would serve as a literal Get Out of Jail Free card.

Thankfully, in at least this one case, the pastor got the punishment he deserved for grooming and sexually assaulting a child. She’s carried that trauma with her for decades. It’s about time Walker paid a price for what he did.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.