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Alabama evangelist Acton Bowen pleads guilty to 28 sex crimes

Former Alabama youth evangelist Paul Acton Bowen pleaded guilty to sexually abusing minors yesterday, according to Alabama media reports.

The Alabama news site AL.com reported that Bowen made the plea on 28 counts of sexual abuse involving six boys. Media reports say he was facing charges of abuse of boys between 13-years-old and 16 years-old.  The charges included enticing a child for sexual acts, sodomy, traveling to meet a child for sexual acts, and sexual abuse. 

The 39-year-old had been in jail since April 2018 when he was arrested by police in Hoover, Alabama. AL.com reports that Bowen entered a blind plea in Etowah County. He faces life in prison if he receives the maximum sentence for each offense. He made the plea on Monday, the same day his trial was scheduled to begin. It’s expected that Circuit Judge Debra Jones will now set a sentencing date, which may be in the next 30 days.

Local NBC affiliate WVTM13 reported that at least two of the victims said Bowen offered them hundreds of dollars for sexual acts.

Bowen’s attorney released a statement to the station yesterday. It said, “All I can tell you is that Acton decided he wanted to accept his responsibility for his actions and not put any of the victims through a trial. His strong faith has allowed him to follow this path. There are mitigating factors that we feel contributed to his actions and these will be revealed by our experts at the sentencing hearing which Judge Jones will be setting.”

The station also reported that Bowen faces charges in another Alabama jurisdiction, Jefferson County, as well as charges in Bay County, Florida. Alabama District Attorney Jody Willoughby would not comment on the guilty plea except to note that she was “relieved” at the outcome.

“There’s been many man hours put into this,” Willoughby said. “However, this is just the next step toward justice and we are very satisfied in (Monday’s) phase, and the victims are as well.”

Bowen had been a popular member of the area’s church community. He served for 12 years in a variety of roles that included a student Bible study in Gadsen. He is also the author of several books, including “In Moment,” a student devotional book. 

The book cover’s blurb says that “Life is a series of moments. Some are huge. Others seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Our response to them, however determines our lives.”

Bowen hosted a television broadcast with millions of viewers, many of them teens and young people. The broadcast was also internationally known and distributed to 170 countries around the world.

Some of the victims told investigators that they had met Bowen through his ministry. They said they were abused in Alabama and during trips across the U.S. and abroad.

In addition to charges that carry life in prison, Bowen also faces a number of other charges that range from one year to 20 years.

“Obviously any case involving a child is difficult,” Willoughby said. “We had people working around the clock and in other jurisdictions attempting to assist in any way that they could.”

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