A former Medford youth pastor convicted as a sex offender was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison Thursday, one day after being punched in the face in court by an angry relative of one of his victims.
U.S. District Court Judge Anne Aiken sided with federal prosecutors, ruling Thursday that Donald Courtney Biggs be considered a “repeat and dangerous sex offender” for secretly recording dozens of young women and juvenile girls undressing in bathrooms at multiple Mtn. Church events from March 2013 through September 2014 “at the very least,” according to Aiken.
Aiken sentenced him to 15 years and 8 months in prison, the sentence prosecutors sought.
Biggs’ hearing made national headlines after a Wednesday afternoon courtroom attack, in which a man jumped the railing from a jury box where victims were seated and landed a punch on Biggs. The attack halted the proceedings just after 1:30 p.m.; the sentencing resumed early Thursday afternoon.
Reporters were relegated to an audio-only overflow room during Thursday’s hearing, so the extent of Biggs’ facial injuries could not be seen. Aiken made ice available to him during the hearing although Biggs had not asked for it. Biggs’ public defender, Terry Kolkey, described his client as “fine” before saying they were ready to proceed.
Aiken said a review of courtroom surveillance video showed the spontaneous attack lasted three seconds. She commended court security and U.S. marshals for their swift response to the attack, and described it as a first in her three decades on the bench, as well as the first in her four decades with a law degree.
Biggs’ alleged attacker, Kevin Patrick Smith, 45, of Medford, has not yet been charged with a crime in the attack, Jackson County Circuit Court records show. Court records also do not show any criminal history for Smith.
Medford police arrested Smith Wednesday on misdemeanor charges of obstructing governmental or judicial administration, fourth-degree assault and disorderly conduct. Although the attack occurred in federal court, police stated after his arrest that Smith would be prosecuted through the state court system.
As of midday Thursday, Smith was no longer lodged in the Jackson County Jail. In less than 24 hours after his arrest, a gofundme page arranged to cover Smith’s possible legal expenses had exceeded its $5,000 goal.
Aiken said she was “well aware” that some will commend Smith’s actions, but stated the “most important aspect of democracy is rule of law,” adding that there’s no place for “hand-to-hand combat” in the courtroom.
“The example set for young people here that day was unprecedented, and really unbelievable,” Aiken said.
As the court shifted back to the sentencing hearing, Kolkey argued that a mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence was appropriate for Biggs because he had no prior criminal history, has acknowledged his guilt, has a family to return to and is at low risk of reoffending.
Biggs read an emotional prepared statement, in which he told his victims who spoke during Wednesday's hearing, “I heard each one of you,” then acknowledged the young women’s struggles with anger, fear of hidden cameras and relationships.
“I want to say to every single one of you, I am so sorry,” Biggs said, adding that he wasn’t allowed to speak while his case was pending. Biggs said it will be the “one and only time I’ll say it,” because he does not intend to contact any of his victims.
Biggs also apologized to Mtn. church’s head pastor, saying, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Biggs said that he and his family will relocate to another area once he’s served his sentence.
Aiken said she’d viewed privately the entirety of the more than 150 hidden camera recordings Biggs made, along with every letter from friends and family supporting Biggs, before agreeing with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that the numerous recordings from multiple trips, along with inappropriate text messages that appeared to be grooming behavior, fit within the guidelines of a “repeat and dangerous sex offender.”
Aiken said her “head jerked” Wednesday as she heard Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Potter read a letter from one of Biggs’ victims, who’d been secretly recorded by her gymnastics coach, Jeffrey Scott Bettman, then confided about the betrayal to Biggs.
“Her trauma has to be enormous,” Aiken said of the victim recorded both by Bettman and Biggs.
Aiken presided over Bettman’s federal case, which closed in 2016 with a 25-year prison sentence. She indicated Biggs should have seen the five-year enhancement coming.
“You had a road map in front of you,” Aiken told Biggs. “It can’t be a surprise to you.”
The sentence was the close to an investigation that began more than three and a half years ago, when Medford police detectives began investigating Biggs in December 2014 following reports of inappropriate texting with juveniles in the congregation. Police initially reached a dead end, after the phone believed to be involved — which Biggs had given to the victim — had been taken back and wiped clean.
In court Wednesday, Potter commended the grandparents who prompted police to reopen the case in January when they told church officials that Biggs engaged in “coercive behavior” with grandchildren. The church immediately contacted police, according to earlier news reports.
Potter also commended Medford police Detective Jim Williams, for following up on leads, and finding other juvenile victims.
The investigation kicked in to high gear the next month, when Biggs tripped a burglary alarm at the church in downtown Medford the night of Jan. 15, 2015, taking only hard drives from the church. Biggs had been placed on administrative leave for violating church policies surrounding the text messages at the time.
A search warrant executed at Biggs’ Jacksonville home yielded hidden camera recordings of dozens of victims changing, showering and using the bathroom at his home during youth group sleepovers along with church trips to Huntington Beach, California and Lake Shasta, California. Biggs also told police in 2015 he designed messy activities that would require his juvenile victims to change clothes or shower.
Victims described activities such as being covered in maple syrup or bobbing for apples in Jello. Biggs would allow girls, only girls, to shower in his trailer or in separate bathrooms.
At least one hard drive and at least one camera card were destroyed beyond recovery, meaning the true extent of what was recorded may never be known. The hard drive’s file structure had the names of minors and adults saved.
“That’s what we’re never going to find,” Potter said.