Sat, July 20

Molesting youth minister gets decade in prison

Christopher Furey

Christopher Furey

CAMP VERDE - Christopher Furey, 44, will spend more than a decade in prison for his conviction of sex offenses with a 14-year-old Rimrock girl, both within his church and in the family's home.

In pronouncing the sentence, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge William Darrow called the case "troubling in so many ways."

The former youth minister with Emmanuel Fellowship Church in Cottonwood returned to Judge Darrow's courtroom Thursday for a delayed mitigation hearing.

The courtroom was filled with dozens of audience members, including friends, church members and Furey's mother, who traveled from her home in Australia for the sentencing.

The mitigation hearing, requested by Furey's Attorney Michael Ziton, allows an opportunity for the accused to present additional evidence and testimony in support of a reduced sentence.

Alan Ellis, a mitigation specialist in felony criminal and capital cases, and Furey himself, were the only defense witnesses to testify.

The victim, now 16, as well as her father and mother and brother also addressed the court.

Ellis told the court that Furey's actions were "surprising" and "outside the man's character." He has had no prior criminal history for 25 years. The former minister did have psychological issues in his past and had been taking medication for depression, prompting suicidal tendencies. When the family came to Arizona, Christopher Furey stopped taking his medications, said Ellis, a condition that resulted in his "poor decision making."

He told the judge that since his arrest, Furey is again taking medications and has "accepted responsibility" for his actions.

The young girl's father admitted his anger, saying, "Furey had thrown us aside like garbage." He urged the accused to consider what Furey has taken from his daughter and his family.

The victim's brother said he "watched my sister cry for months, broken on the inside."

She now knows about the "grooming" process that Furey conducted with her daughter, said the girl's mother, long before the sexual conduct began. That was a process that "isolated her from her friends and family" and made her look at him as a "father figure."

She said, we know "first-hand why victims of abuse relocate."

After nine years attending Emmanuel Fellowship Church, the girl's mother told the court the family withdrew from the congregation and joined a Prescott Valley church.

The girl withdrew from Mingus and was graduated from home through an online school in Florida.

Now the girl is part of a church again and has "hopes, dreams and aspirations."

The victim, herself, presented a lengthy message to the court, at times recounting specifics of her involvement with Furey, the hurt she felt and the community reaction.

Furey had asked her for nude photos and bought her "revealing and tight-fitting clothes." She told the court she nearly threw-up after one sex act. He would sit in his car outside her house and threaten her in text messages, she told the court.

She said in frustration she eventually detailed the entire relationship with Furey in a diary and left it for her mother to find.

The victim told the court that "everything was premeditated" and that "he had already found another young girl before he was arrested."

She claimed the church alienated her and her family after the charges. "Suddenly, I am the bad guy for putting Chris in jail," she said.

She said she cried herself to sleep every night and had nightmares. She had lost touch with everyone except her family and was afraid of being home alone.

Furey told the court that he was sorry for what he had done and expressed his sorrow to the church and congregation. "I broke vows. I know that doesn't absolve me. I hope and pray that the next chapter will be one of healing for everyone involved."

In ordering the sentence, Judge Darrow said that he found the following mitigating conditions for Furey: remorse, lack of criminal history and pre-existing medical conditions.

But Darrow also said he found one clear aggravating condition, the emotional harm to the young victim. He included, the "extended period of time in which the actions occurred and the emotional harm to the family of the victim and the entire community."

The count of sexual conduct with a minor, typically a Class-6 misdemeanor, becomes a Class-2 felony when it is in the hands of a clergyman. Furey was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The term is only reduced by the 268 days, already served in jail. For a sexual abuse charge he was sentenced to an additional 1 year and seven months in prison. The prison sentence is "flat time" meaning he is not eligible for early release.

"The harm is very significant," said the judge. The two prison terms will run back to back.

Furey must register as a sex offender and will serve lifetime probation. He may serve up to an additional 180 days of on-order jail time if he violates probation.

But the judge also said "deportation is likely."

Furey is a citizen of Canada.