Former church leader sentenced in sexual assault case

Former Haitian church leader Luckner Sylvain issued a soft-spoken apology Wednesday as he was sentenced in New London Superior Court for molesting a 12-year-old girl.

The 49-year-old Sylvain said he was sorry to his family, the victim and the state.

Judge Susan B. Handy sentenced Sylvain to 2½ years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation for risk of injury to a minor. He will be required to register as a sexual offender and is prohibited from having contact with the victim, her family or any children under 16.

Prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman said Sylvain had sex multiple times with the girl in 2006 and 2007 when she lived with his family.

“You were 43 years old and she was 12,” the judge said to Sylvain. “There’s no excuse for this kind of behavior. As an adult, our duty is to protect children, not perpetrate crimes against them.”

Sylvain was a 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.

Norwich police began investigating Sylvain in December 2011 after the state Department of Children and Families notified them that a teenage girl had disclosed the sexual assaults. 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.

Defense attorney Paul F. Chinigo said Sylvain pleaded guilty to the risk of injury charge because wanted to spare the girl from having to testify at trial. Ferryman said the victim has done “very well” and is now attending college out of state. She has been hesitant to return to Connecticut until the case was resolved, Ferryman said, and is “eager to see it behind her.”

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