CORONA, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California pastor and two followers pleaded guilty Monday to harming a 13-year-old boy who was pinched with pliers, hit with a shovel, forced to dig a mock grave and threatened with death after his mother turned him over to be disciplined, prosecutors said.
Shortly before his trial was set to start, Lonny Remmers, 56, pleaded to inflicting corporal injury on a child and assault with a deadly weapon, the Riverside County district attorney said in a statement.
Two members of Remmers' tiny church, Nicholas Craig, 24, and Darryll Jeter Jr., 30, pleaded guilty to inflicting corporal injury and making criminal threats and have been sentenced to a year in home confinement and three years' probation.
By entering the pleas, the men avoided a kidnapping charge that was the most serious against them.
"It was a harebrained idea that got out of control and should've never gone that far," Jeter's attorney Rodney Nosratabadi told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
Prosecutors said they agreed to the deal because of the state of the evidence and because the boy and his family didn't want to go through a trial.
Remmers could get up to two years in prison at his sentencing scheduled for September. He's also been charged with wire fraud and conspiracy in a separate federal case.
Remmers heads Corona's Heart of Worship Community Church, which has 15 to 20 members. Authorities say he brutally disciplined the boy after the boy's mother brought him to a church-run group home.