Stephen Michael Houlihan, a 29-year-old pastor at the Fellowship of the Rockies in Colorado Springs, was sentenced to five years of ‘sex offender supervised intensive probation’, earlier this month. This sentence was handed down during a hearing in the 4th Judicial District, after Houlihan pleaded guilty to a felony charge of ‘promoting obscenity to a minor’ last April.
This guilty plea was part of an agreement made with the prosecuting attorneys who, in exchange, agreed to drop a charge of ‘possession of sexual exploitation of a child’ and a charge of ‘attempted sexual assault of a child by one in a position of trust’.
This plea agreement was reached in order to avoid causing the further stress and trauma of a lengthy courtroom trial, to the victim and her family. But, it also meant that Houlihan is going to avoid time in prison.
According to investigators, the former clergyman had sent inappropriate photos to a 16-year-old girl he was attempting to coerce into a sexual relationship. The girl was a member of the church at the time.
The crime was discovered when the young woman’s mother found inappropriate messages on the girl’s phone. Houlihan and the girl had apparently known each other for a number of years, but he had not acted inappropriately until a few weeks before the crime, according to an affidavit.
Houlihan started working for the church in 2013 in some kind of office capacity, but left in the fall of 2015. In 2017, he returned to the church to work as a pastor. He has since been fired from the church.
The Fellowship of the Rockies has stated that their hiring process includes standard safety procedures, including background checks, but that there was nothing in Houlihan’s background to suggest that he could be dangerous.
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