Former EP pastor sentenced to 3 years in prison for sex with teen
LISBON — A former East Palestine pastor will spend the next three years in prison for engaging in sexual conduct with an underage female member of his congregation.
“The (prosecutor’s office) said the facts in this case were disturbing. I find them reprehensible,” said Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge C. Ashley Pike during a sentencing hearing Friday for Rodney W. McManus, who previously pleaded guilty to engaging in illegal sexual conduct with a minor as part of a plea deal reached with the county prosecutor’s office. The charge carries a maximum possible prison sentence of five years.
McManus was also designated a Tier 2 sex offender, which requires he register with the local county sheriff’s office wherever he lives.
McManus, 50, was pastor of the former NewLife Outreach Church, which held local services at The Coffee Stop in East Palestine, including activities for local youth. Both closed following his indictment.
He was accused of engaging in sexual conduct with the girl from January 2014 to July 2017, starting when she was 13. Assistant County Prosecutor Ryan Weikart said McManus violated the trust that came with being a minister and authority figure.
“He was looked at as a father figure and was trusted by our children,” Weikart told Pike, adding the girl entered McManus’ life at the point in her life where she needed spiritual guidance. “He was supposed to be trustworthy, he was supposed to be safe,” Weikart added. “It’s hard to think of a position with greater responsibility.”
Defense attorney Lynn Maro sought probation for her client, stating McManus had led an exemplary life until his fall from grace. She also asked Pike to take note of the packed courtroom, most of whom were there in support of McManus, along with the letters of support also sent to the judge.
Maro said it was McManus who broke off the relationship and immediately admitted his guilt after her parents went to police. She said her client also automatically surrendered his minister’s license and obtained counseling.
When it came time for him to address the court, McManus apologized to the girl, her parents, his congregation and the community for his actions, describing it as a “delusional” relationship that only existed between June-October 2016, not three-plus years as alleged in the indictment.
“I had a chance to be a positive impact in her life and I blew it … I would do absolutely anything to take it all back,” he said, while choking back tears.
Judge Pike said all of McManus’ supporters expressed shock at his behavior, and if they could be fooled so completely what is to say this behavior would not occur again.