The juvenile victim in the criminal case against former pastor Justin K. White was not at White’s Oct. 20 sentencing hearing. Now an adult, he was a few blocks away, in the Bartholomew County Jail, where he has been incarcerated since August.

The young man was 16 years old when the offenses took place that resulted in White pleading guilty to two felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

In court documents, White admitted to aiding or inducing a 16-year-old juvenile to commit an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult. As part of his plea bargain agreement, White admitted he asked the juvenile to sell him two narcotic drugs, hydrocodone and oxycontin, court documents state.

During Justin White’s sentencing hearing, the boy’s mother testified that White volunteered to counsel her son while he was home alone on house arrest.

The mother, a member of White’s First Christian Church congregation, said she approached the pastor to sign a document allowing her son to attend church services, and the pastor volunteered to go to their home to counsel the boy, often bringing him lunch or breakfast and spending time with him.

“I had no reason to believe that my son was involved in narcotics,” the mother said of the time before her son became involved in counseling with White. “Now he’s a narcotics addict and he has legal problems.”

The charges against him stem from an incident in October 2016 when he was found passed out with a handgun in his lap in a shopping center parking lot in the 2000 block of Merchant’s Mile. He had been arrested on the methamphetamine charge along with a charge of possession of a controlled substance and carrying a handgun without a permit, according to court records. Officers had found a small amount of methamphetamine and Xanax in the vehicle, Columbus police said.

He spent three days in jail after that arrest, from Oct. 21 to 23, 2016, and then was re-arrested on May 4 of this year on the conversion charge, for taking merchandise from a Columbus department store, court records state. He spent three more days in jail before being released on the county’s pre-trial diversion program in which nonviolent offenders are released from jail without being required to post bond.

A petition to revoke that release was filed June 30 and a warrant issued for his arrest in July. He has been incarcerated in the Bartholomew County Jail since Aug. 9, being held in jail in lieu of $20,000 bond.

On Monday, White’s drug provider pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine as a Level 6 felony and conversion as a Class A misdemeanor, with all remaining charges to be dismissed, according to a plea bargain agreement offered by Deputy Prosecutor Greg Long.

The sentencing hearing was set for 3:30 p.m. Nov. 28.

During the change-of-plea hearing, the young man told Judge Jim Worton he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But he did tell the judge that he was a drug abuser.

He was brought into Bartholomew Superior Court 2 in handcuffs and shackles, wearing a red Bartholomew County jail uniform, glancing over at family members sitting in the front row on the side of the Superior 2 courtroom. He gave them a smile after the hearing, just before he was led from the courtroom.

During White’s sentencing hearing, the boy’s mother was asked how her son’s life would have been different if he had not come into contact with the pastor or was convinced to obtain drugs for the church leader, including obtaining heroin.

“My son believes that God hates him,” his mother said. “I believe my son would be in college right now. He had great Christian friends. He definitely wouldn’t be a drug dealer or a thief.”

The mother said her son needed someone to lift him up, rather than drag him deeper into the drug culture.

“My son needed someone to share Scripture with him at a pivotal time,” she said. “And the person I thought was doing that was causing more damage.”

Pull Quote

“My son needed someone to share Scripture with him at a pivotal time. And the person I thought was doing that was causing more damage.”

— Mother of then-teenager who supplied drugs for Pastor Justin White

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.