A former youth leader at a Northern Virginia megachurch was sentenced Monday to serve three years in prison for charges stemming from an inappropriate encounter with a 16-year-old girl at the church in 2014.
Jordan David Baird, 28, of Warrenton, pleaded guilty in Prince William Circuit Court in February to two counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor.
At the end of an emotional sentencing hearing that lasted more than four hours Monday, July 8, Judge John E. Wetsel Jr. sentenced Baird to six years but suspended three years of the sentence, leaving him three years to serve.
Baird was a youth leader at The Life Church, which has campuses in Manassas, Warrenton and Winchester, and was a music teacher at the affiliated Life Music Academy, according to court documents.
This was the second sentencing for Baird, who was convicted in 2018 of five counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor and one count of electronic solicitation of a minor for sexual activities and suggestive electronic messages he sent another teen girl in 2015. He served five months in jail for that conviction.
Monday’s sentencing hearing focused on allegations that Baird had inappropriate contact with a girl during a music lesson at the church in 2014, when she was 16 and he was 23. Prosecutors said that during the lesson Baird was alone with the girl and kissed her before asking her to perform sex acts on him; she refused.
During the hearing, the victim, her mother, her father and her sister testified about the impact the incident had on her and her family. The Prince William Times does not typically identify victims of sexual assault.
The victim’s mother said that before her daughter was involved with Baird, she was a happy young teen who excelled in academics, sports and singing. But after the incident, her mother said, she “spiraled out of control.”
“She could barely function at all,” she said.
The victim’s family members said they believe Baird was “grooming” her for years, describing whispered conversations, hugs that lasted “too long,” back rubs and other behaviors that culminated in Baird sexually propositioning the girl during a music lesson.
In the aftermath of the incident, the victim has struggled with PTSD and other issues, she and her family testified.
“There was a lot of chaos in my life because of this,” she said.
Fredericksburg Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Kevin Gross, appointed as the special prosecutor in the case, called the victim in Baird’s first criminal trial and her mother to testify in Monday’s sentencing. But the judge ruled that any testimony that was not related to the 2014 incident was not relevant. As a result, the victim in the first criminal case did not testify Monday; her mother testified only briefly.
Gross also called as witnesses two other women who reported inappropriate sexual contact or advances from Baird. One woman testified that Baird sent her a text message she felt was inappropriate when she was 17. The second woman testified that when she was 18, she performed a consensual sex act with Baird at the church while he was employed there.
Baird’s wife testified for the defense, saying that she “has seen him show obvious remorse for what he’s done.”
In his closing argument, Gross described Baird as “a deceiver.”
“He had all those people, their families trusting him,” Gross said. “He knows how to put on a show.”
Gross argued the case “is particularly heinous” because it “involves not only a church, but a church leader.”
“If you’re not safe in the church and you can’t trust church leaders who you’ve known for a long time, really, it begs the question, ‘who can you trust?’” he said.
Defense attorney Travis Tull asked the judge to sentence Baird to probation in lieu of a lengthy prison sentence. He argued that with the help of therapy, Baird is a different man now than he was in 2014.
“Whatever he was then… he’s not that same person now,” Tull said.
Before he was sentenced, Baird read from a prepared statement and offered apologies to the victim in the case, to her family, to his wife and to his family.
“I simply apologize for what happened,” Baird said, addressing the victim in the case. “It never should have happened, and that’s on me.”
Addressing the judge, Baird said, “I take complete and total responsibility for what I’ve done,” and said he would accept whatever the judge sentenced him to.
“Whatever you decided, I will man up and take it and I will walk through it,” he said.
Reach Amanda Heincer at email@example.com