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Pastor pleads no-contest lesser lewdness charge

The local church pastor charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor stemming from an alleged incident in July involving a mentally challenged juvenile will plead to a lesser charge.

George Ferguson pled no-contest Monday to an open and lewd behavior gross misdemeanor that carries with it up to a year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 21.

Ferguson was initially charged with luring a mentally ill person, first degree kidnapping and attempting to transmit the virus that causes AIDS, as he is HIV positive, all felonies.

In Nevada, an individual can be charged with a category B felony for intentionally, knowingly, or willfully engaging in conduct that is intended to or likely to transmit HIV to another person.

“All of the other charges are going to be dismissed and as your attorney said at the end of your probation period, he’s going to make a motion to come back in front of the court and reduce it to a non-sexual offense,” Fifth District Court Judge Robert Lane said.

Lane also informed Ferguson that he does not have to abide by the plea agreement during sentencing.

“If I want to, I could give you the 364 days in jail with credit for time served,” he said. “You should also understand that a no-contest plea is the same as a guilty plea when it comes to sentencing. I believe the only thing that a no-contest plea protects you from are civil ramifications and I know we used to have a judge that would never accept them.”

Defense Attorney Jason Earnest told Lane the reason why his client opted for the no-contest plea.

“For these purposes the alleged victim’s family has nine children and are very litigious,” he said. “They made a history in Texas suing various school districts and people. My client’s no-contest plea is done for all the right purposes.”

Earnest also requested Lane to relieve his client from house arrest, which Ferguson has been on since his July 25, 2014 arrest.

“My client was in custody for quite some time given the knee jerk reactions for charges in justice court,” he said. “As time went on he was granted an (own recognizance release). But with house arrest he wears a bracelet on his ankle. Your honor he is no threat to the community other than a DUI allegation and frankly if he screws up, this deal will go south because the state can withdraw it. I’m asking you to take him off house arrest.”

District Attorney Prosecutor Christi Kindel told the courtroom that if Ferguson chose to fight the charges, the district attorney’s office would get a conviction.

Following further discussion Lane granted the request to remove Ferguson from house arrest.

Ferguson was arrested on July 25 at the Freedom of Praise Ministries church after the family of a mentally disabled 17-year-old boy complained about the pastor luring the juvenile on July 17 into his home and allegedly hugging, kissing and touching the boy inappropriately.

The minor told police the pastor grabbed his pants at one point and looked inside his clothing at his privates.

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