A former youth leader of a Manassas megachurch who was convicted of having a sexual relationship with an underage girl in his congregation was sentenced to spend eight months in jail today.
Prosecutors allege Jordan Baird, 26, of Warrenton, used his position as the son of the leader of the Life Church and as a Christian pop singer to manipulate young girls and women into having inappropriate relationships with him. Baird was found guilty of five counts of indecent liberties with a minor by a custodian, all of which were related to one victim, after a four-day jury trial in Prince William County Circuit Court. Jurors recommended Baird serve five months in jail for those convictions.
The jury couldn’t reach a verdict on one charge—using electronic means to commit a sex crime with a minor. As part of a plea deal, the charge was amended to electronic solicitation of a minor and Baird pleaded no contest to it today.
“You kept me silent for a year-and-a-half and I want you to know you no longer have control over me,” the victim said during Baird’s sentencing hearing. “This is not your story. This is my story and I will use it to help other victims. You picked the wrong girl to mess with. Thank you for empowering me to stand up and fight for what is worth fighting for.”
Prosecutors said Baird is a “deceiver, a manipulator and a sexual predator” who groomed the girl for abuse, sent her sexually-suggestive messages and groped her multiple times at the Life Church between January and September 2015. The teen testified during the trial she refused Baird’s unwanted sexual advances and told him what he was doing was wrong on more than one occasion.
Judge Burke F. McCahill sentenced Baird to five years in jail, with all but three months suspended for the solicitation charge and five months for all of the indecent liberties charges. McCahill said the law did not allow him to impose a higher sentence than the one the jury recommended, even though the state sentencing guidelines were between one and five years in prison for each indecent liberties charge.
Baird will also have five years of probation and will have to pay $12,000 in restitution to the victim’s family. He was barred from contacting the victim or her family and was ordered to register as a sex offender.
During the trial, Special Prosecutor David Gross tried to introduce the testimonies of three other women who say Baird used his power in the church and his notoriety as a Christian pop singer to manipulate them into having inappropriate relationships and performing sex acts in the church. One of the girls was underage at the time of the alleged misconduct, the prosecutor said. But the judge wouldn’t allow the women’s testimonies because he said the information would be highly prejudicial in the criminal trial, citing case law.
“The list of your victims is growing longer by the week,” said the girl’s mother during sentencing. “Some of them self-harm and some have tried to commit suicide because of what you did to them.”
The teen’s mother urged Baird to take responsibility for his actions.
“Come forward with the truth,” she said. “Until you do, we will continue to go to war.”
According to testimony presented at trial, the girl’s family initially asked the church to bring in a third-party to investigate what took place. But the church selected Steve Dawson, a close friend of the Bairds’ who was once a co-pastor at the church who does not have a background in law enforcement or investigations.
Gross suggested Dawson left out key details he learned during his internal investigation when he was interviewed by police and refused to hand his notes over to law-enforcement officials. Gross also suggested the Life Church’s law firm instructed Dawson through his investigation.
The teen’s father said he recorded a meeting with Dawson in which he told the pastor Baird touched his daughter. On the stand, Dawson said he didn’t “recall” the father saying this.
The girl and her family said they have been “shunned” by the church since they came forward. They said the teen’s childhood friends were “stolen” from her and she was mocked and ridiculed by people she once considered family.
“Many people have abandoned them to align with you,” said McCahill as he handed down his sentence. “They were victimized a second time by this.”
The judge said Baird violated the position of trust he had as the girl’s youth pastor.
“There is a history of churches offering sanctuary for people to be free from the outside,” he said. “They are supposed to be there to protect people.”
Editor’s note: As per policy, the Times does not use the names of underage victims of alleged sexual abuse.