This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Former Haiti worker pleads not guilty to Ohio charges

Jeriah Mast, a former worker with the Anabaptist relief agency Christian Aid Minis­tries, pleaded not guilty to charges related to sexual abuse at his July 3 arraignment in Holmes County Common Pleas Court in Millersburg, Ohio.

Mast, who served with CAM in Haiti for several years, is accused of sexually assaulting boys there and in the United States. In Holmes County, Ohio, he has been charged with seven counts of gross sexual imposition at the felony level and seven similar counts at the misdemeanor level. (Felony charges are for crimes against children under 13; misdemeanor charges are for offenses with victims under 16.)

The Akron Beacon Journal reported the alleged crimes involve five juveniles in incidents from 1999 to 2008, when Mast was between the ages of 18 and 27.

In separate legal matters in Haiti, he is still wanted for other charges of abuse and sexual assault of five minors.

The ministry team at Mast’s U.S. church — Shining Light Christian Fellowship in Mill­ersburg — said in a June 12 statement that Mast began confessing sins within 24 hours after arriving back in the U.S. The Akron Beacon Journal reported he turned himself in July 2 to the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office, the day after he was indicted by a Holmes County grand jury.

“He confessed multiple instances of immoral sexual relationships with boys, which began in his youth,” said the church’s statement. “. . . Because of the sins that were committed and the victims that were abused, an appointment was made to report this to our local sheriff department. Jeriah voluntarily went in person for an interview and confessed to a local detective and an FBI agent (including  giving names of victims).”

CAM placed two leaders on administrative leave June 17 as it investigates what they knew about Mast when he served on its behalf in Haiti. A statement by CAM said Paul Weaver and Eli Weaver knew of sexual abuse allegations as early as 2013.

Brucely Delma, pastor of a church in Petit-Goave, Haiti, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Mast worked at Delma’s church and its school between 2008 and 2010. Delma said Mast’s work at the church and school ended when Delma learned of Mast’s alleged abuse of boys and excommunicated him. He believes CAM would have known Mast was excommunicated.

Mast’s jury trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 30.

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