ETOWAH COUNTY, ALABAMA – A televangelist from Alabama named Paul Acton Bowen was sentenced to 1,008 years in prison on Friday. The sentence is the maximum possible on all counts, after Bowen plead guilty to the sexual abuse of a half dozen teen boys, AL.com reports.
Mr Bowen was also ordered to pay a fine for all counts in the amount of $840,000, the maximum fine.
39 year old Paul Acton Bowen plead guilty in Etowah County earlier this month to 28 charges of sexual abuse against six male teenage victims between 13 and 16 years old of age, according to AL.com. Bowen’s charges included enticing children for sexual acts, sodomy, sexual abuse, and traveling to meet up with children for sexual acts.
Several Etowah County judges had recused themselves from the cases, and Circuit Judge Debra Jones oversaw the trial. The ex-wife of Bowen is the daughter of one of those recused Etowah County judges.
Just before Mr Bowen was sentenced, and standing there shackled, he looked over to a crowded courtroom and said a trembling voice apology, both to the victims and his own family members, for the years of sexually abusing juveniles.
“The shame and guilt I feel is overwhelming and has been for a long time,” Mr Bowen said tearfully, “My heart was never wanting to hurt anybody but my mind was not well,” AL.com reported.
The victims and Bowen’s family wept as Judge Jones ordered the maximum sentence and fine on all counts. Bowen’s prison sentences will be served consecutively, instead of concurrent, meaning they will be served separately and not all combined into one.
Paul Acton Bowen still has a trial in Jefferson County for three more felony charges of traveling to meet children for sex, enticing children for sexual acts, and sodomy. There is a trial date set for April 20, 2020 for those charges, AL.com revealed.
Prosecutors say it is highly unlikely Mr Bowen will ever be released from prison on his current conviction, but he did, he’d be considered a “sexually violent predator,” and would need to comply with a 10 year probationary period, AL.com wrote.
Paul Acton Bowen served at a local church for 12 years, and went on to lead a citywide Gadsden student Bible study, he also hosted xlroads TV, which was broadcast worldwide with millions of weekly views including both adult and teenage viewers in every American city and more than 170 countries around the globe, according to AL.com.
The young male victims reported to authorities that the sexual abuse went on for months, or even years, and that the abuse wasn’t confined to Etowah County, as Mr Bowen would abuse them on trips to different states and countries while on his ministry, AL.com said.
The many teenage male victims age 12 but under the age of 16 suffered the sexual abuse from between 2006 and 2018. The victims testified in court about how the abuse had severely negatively impacted their lives, with one saying Bowen is a “Wolf in sheep’s skin,” AL.com reported in detail.
Paul Acton Bowen claims he was also a victim of sexual abuse as a juvenile and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, according to Bowen’s attorney John Floyd.
A clinical therapist testified for the defense, and called Bowen’s acts “horrific” but also said Bowen was acting out a pattern of abuse that was once perpetrated upon him. The therapist described Bowen as “a very damaged man who needed a great deal of help and never got it.”
However, District Attorney Jody Willoughby and Deputy District Attorney Carol Griffith said they don’t believe Bowen had been abused by the man he claims.
“There’s no evidence other than the defendant’s statements after he was arrested,” AL.com reports Willoughby saying, “There’s never been any reports to DHR and he’s never been reported by anyone.”
Willoughby also said he would prosecute any other cases, and stated, “There’s not a question in my mind. If anyone is out there who wants to come forward, please let law enforcement know. We will get justice, justice will be had.”