NJ Youth Minister Found Guilty of Child Sexual Assault Sued by Teenage Families

FRANKLIN (Somerset) – A youth minister convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl and breaking Megan’s Law is being sued by two Middlesex County families alleging he ‘sexually assaulted’ their children.

The lawsuits, brought by a North Brunswick family and a South Brunswick family, also name John Does one through five as defendants; the General Council of the Assemblies of God; and the Eternal Life Christian Center, the Pentecostal church here where Shawn Butler served as youth minister.

The lawsuits say the victims were 15 and 16 at the time of Butler’s alleged acts.

While at Eternal Life Christian Center, Butler – who lives in Hillsborough – was given duties that included youth counseling, pastoral care and leadership, according to the lawsuits.

The lawsuits claim that the Assemblies of God — the official name of the Pentecostal denomination — and the Eternal Life Christian Center “had a duty” to oversee and control Butler’s activities.

However, during his tenure at Eternal Life Christian Center from 2004 to 2014, Butler “engaged in a pattern and practice of child sexual abuse,” according to the lawsuits.

He allegedly sexually assaulted one of the victims, identified as BH, between April and June 2014 when she was 15 years old.

The other victim, identified as HS, 16, was “intentionally and repeatedly sexually assaulted” by Butler from July 2012 to August 2013, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuits claim the children had “admiration, trust, reverence, respect and obedience to the clergy” and Eternal Life Christian Center placed Butler in a position of trust, which he then used to gain access to minors.

Butler was sentenced in Somerset County State Superior Court on September 20 to five years in prison for violating Megan’s Law by unlawfully participating in a youth-serving organization.

“He infiltrated the youth ministry of this church. He put himself in a position where he had unrestricted access to children – young and vulnerable children,” the Somerset County Assistant District Attorney said. Kimberly Savino-French, who handled the case. “He must be deterred.”

Savino-French said church officials allowed Butler access to children in the congregation.

“They left him alone with their children, in church, in cars and in overnight camps,” she said. “They put all their trust in him to take care of their children.”

The sentence came six months after Butler was sentenced in Middlesex County to five years in prison for sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl.

The sentences will be served consecutively.

EARLIER:Hillsborough youth minister convicted of sexual contact with 15-year-old


The lawsuits claim that the two alleged victims were “permanently harmed, psychologically and physically” as a result of the actions of Butler and the other defendants.

EARLIER:NJ youth minister sentenced to 5 years for breaking Megan’s Law

The lawsuits each allege 16 counts against the defendants, including sexual abuse, negligence, negligent hiring and training, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and violation of the Child Sexual Abuse Act, among others.

Butler denied all counts and asked for the complaints to be dismissed.

Writer Nick Muscavage is an award-winning surveillance journalist whose work covers many topics and has spurred the creation of state law. Contact him: 908-243-6615; [email protected]; @nmuscavage.

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