Norwich pastor pleads guilty to molesting girl

Former Haitian church leader Luckner Sylvain pleaded guilty in Superior Court Wednesday to molesting a 12-year-old girl multiple times while she lived with his family in 2006 in Norwich.

Sylvain, 49, will be sentenced in December to 2½ years in prison followed by 10 years of probation for risk of injury to a minor and will be required to register as a sex offender.

Sylvain pleaded guilty under the Alford Doctrine, which indicates he does not agree with the state’s allegations but does not want to risk the possibility of a harsher sentence if convicted at trial.

Sylvain is co-founder of the Bethany Foundation, a group dedicated to raising funds to help Haitian children affected by the earthquake in January 2010. He was formerly affiliated with the First Haitian Baptist Church in Norwich.

Prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman said Norwich police began investigating Sylvain in December 2011 after the state Department of Children and Families notified them that a teenage girl had disclosed that Sylvain sexually assaulted her multiple times when she lived with his family.

Sylvain left for Haiti “unexpectedly,” Ferryman said, then called his wife to say he was sorry. Police captured him with the assistance of Haitian authorities and the U.S. State Department and brought him to Miami. He was extradited to Connecticut in April and was held in lieu of a $200,000 bond while his case was pending.

During his court appearance Wednesday, Sylvain stood with his attorney, Paul F. Chinigo, and answered a series of questions that Judge Susan B. Handy posed to ensure he understood the procedure. The victim, who is now a college student, has been in contact with the state’s attorney’s office and is aware of the plea deal, according to Victim Advocate Beth Ann Hess.

— Karen Florin

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