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Donald Courtney Biggs

Ex-pastor's texts will play into sentencing on sex crime

A former Medford youth pastor will be sentenced in August for secretly recording at least one juvenile in a bathroom during a church trip to California.

Former Mtn. Church youth pastor Donald Courtney Biggs, 39, will be sentenced Aug. 20 for placing a hidden camera in a bathroom and capturing a girl exiting a shower in Huntington Beach, California, during a March 2013 church trip.

The hearing previously had been slated for June, but Terry Kolkey, Biggs’ public defender, said he needed more time to sort through evidence submitted by prosecutors in the case, citing recordings created during dozens of church events and thousands of pages worth of text messages, according to documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

In February, Biggs pleaded guilty to one count of transporting with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity with a minor. At the time, the U.S. Attorney’s office said it would argue for a 15-year sentence for the crime, which carries a 10-year mandatory-minimum sentence.

“There will be an important argument about the sentencing guidelines, which requires extensive research, discussion of the evidence and textual analysis,” Kolkey wrote in his filing.

The government submitted “over 2,200 pages of texts” that Biggs had with minors, according to the filing.

Federal prosecutors say Biggs sent teen and preteen girls in his congregation messages that included phrases such as “you are beautiful,” “I love you” and “love you to the moon and back.”

Investigations of inappropriate texting preceded Biggs’ arrest on child pornography charges in January 2015.

Biggs was investigated in November 2014 for inappropriate texting, but that investigation was dropped. In December, the case was reopened after a grandparent of a second victim reported “coercion techniques” to the church, which immediately contacted police.

The grandparent reported that Biggs solicited photos from the girl, bought her clothes and messaged that she “made him sad or made him cry,” according to documents filed by prosecutors.

Kolkey stated Monday that Biggs “had extensive contacts with many of the minors and their families outside of church activities,” but hadn’t yet formed an “informative and accurate narrative of the facts.”

Between 2010 and 2014, the church held at least 40 youth events, according to Kolkey, making it a challenge to match the recordings with the events.

“The forensic evidence is critical and voluminous, and it takes a considerable amount of time to describe and condense it,” Kolkey wrote.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken rescheduled the hearing to Aug. 20, but noted that federal prosecutors oppose any further postponements. Aiken previously has stated she will allot as much time as necessary to allow victims to make statements at the sentencing hearing.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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