Former Berks Jehovah’s Witnesses member admits to sexually assaulting children decades ago

Attorney General Michelle Henry announced that the first of more than a dozen men charged with child sexual assault crimes while they were members of Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations has pleaded guilty.

Jesse Hill, formerly of Berks County and now a resident of Georgia, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges related to the sexual assault and exploitation of two minors whom he met through the Jehovah’s Witnesses community in the 1990s.

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Hill, 52, pleaded guilty in Berks County Court to two counts of rape, felonies of the first degree.

Sentencing was deferred so that the defendant can undergo an evaluation by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, which will assist in determining whether the defendant meets the criteria for a sexually violent predator.

“Through this guilty plea, the defendant admitted that he used his good standing within his religious community to access potential victims, gain their trust, and then sexually assault them,” said Attorney General Henry. “These crimes are abhorrent, and we are wholeheartedly committed to holding those accountable who hurt children. To any victims who have not yet disclosed their stories to law enforcement, I want you to know that if you speak up, our office will listen.”

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Since 2022, investigators have used the Statewide Investigating Grand Jury to secure presentments and charges against 14 men who allegedly assaulted children while they were members of Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations across the state.

The Office of Attorney General set up a hotline at 888-538-8541 for victims and family members to provide information to investigators.

The investigation in this case revealed that Hill used his milling business to attract young boys from his Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation to his property for parties. He promised the boys alcohol, marijuana, and pornography, and relied upon his family’s trusted name within the religious community to gain the children’s trust. At his house, Hill exposed himself to children, groped them, and forced them to perform sex acts.

This case was prosecuted by Chief Deputy Attorney General Christopher Jones.

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Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly is an independent and locally owned digital newspaper covering the City of Reading and Berks County. Subscribe today: berksweekly.com/subscribe
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