MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Court of Appeals says the leader of an isolated religious sect who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two teenagers must be given a lesser sentence.

Victor Barnard was leader of River Road Fellowship near Finlayson, about 90 miles north of Minneapolis.

He was sentenced to 30 years in prison after two women who were part of his “Maidens Group” said he began assaulting them when they were 12 and 13.

Barnard received 15 years in prison for each victim. That’s more than the presumptive sentence of 12 years each. But the judge didn’t give a reason for going higher at the time, as rules require.

So the appeals court reversed Barnard’s sentence Monday and ordered he be resentenced to the presumptive penalty. Consecutive sentences are still allowed, so he could face 24 years total.