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WüRZBURG, Germany — Four years ago, Spc. Tavaran Ridley lured two young girls into acts of sex in his on-base apartment, then lied about it to authorities.

Last year, he also committed an indecent act in the front hallway of a woman’s apartment as she looked on.

With bowed head and tears, the part-time minister begged his family, the victims, God and a military court for forgiveness Friday at his Army court-martial after pleading guilty to charges of committing indecent acts, sodomy and making a false official statement.

“I had no right to do the things that I’ve done,” said Ridley, 27, of the 601st Aviation Support Battalion in Katterbach, Germany. “I repent to God … I turned my back on him, and I’ve disgraced his name.”

Judge (Col.) Stephanie Browne, sentenced him to 40 years in prison, reduction to the lowest enlisted rank and a dishonorable discharge. A plea bargain with prosecutors, though, will limit his sentence to 11 years.

Ridley told the court the acts took place between June and December 2000, on at least three separate occasions, with one or both of the girls — ages 6 and 4, respectively, at the time.

In August 2001, according to a court document, one of the girls told an adult about the abuse. Confronted by the girls’ mother, Ridley denied it and told the mother that she should punish them for lying.

Two years later, Ridley admitted, he falsely denied the incident at another woman’s house to military police investigators, and this spring he told them he hadn’t molested the girls. Later, though, he confessed and has been in jail since June.

Ridley’s mother and his church pastor testified by telephone from Nashville, Tenn. Both said he had seemed to be an unusually happy child who had been heavily involved in his church until he joined the Army in 1996. The Rev. Barton Harris described Ridley as a gifted minister.

“Certainly I’m surprised by some of the behavior, but it doesn’t change the way I feel about him,” Harris said. “He is so exceptional when it comes to preaching and leading the people of God. I want him back.”

Ridley said his seemingly happy childhood covered a secret: A cousin molested him for three years when he was young. He said he didn’t tell his family about it until 2002.

The prosecutor, Maj. Shane Bartee, said Ridley had created a “warped, twisted and dangerous world” for the girls. He asked Browne for “significant” punishment for the crimes.

“It’s really misconduct of the worst kind,” Bartee said. “The perpetrator was in a position of authority, and the victims were weak and vulnerable.”


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