Louis Bristol, the Carpinteria youth pastor who pleaded guilty in August to committing sexual acts on a two teen girls, was sentenced Friday to one year in Santa Barbara County Jail plus a strictly termed five-year probation period, during which he will have to register as a sex offender. Both Bristol’s family and the victims and their families — statements from the girls’ mothers suggested their families had once been close with Bristol’s — attended the sentencing. They sat on opposite sides of the courtroom, and at one point, from their seats, Bristol’s wife and the mother of one of the girls argued until a bailiff admonished them to keep quiet.
Bristol, who was 28 years old at the time of the crimes, met the two girls, 14 and 16 at the time, through his job as a high school youth pastor at the Carpinteria Community Church. The lewd acts occurred at the Holiday Inn Express in Carpinteria, where he also worked as an assistant manager. He also sent a video of himself masturbating to a third victim, an adult. He was arrested for the crimes in February.
One of the victims spoke at the sentencing, reading from an essay she wrote for college applications. “My life was centered in that church,” she said. “That church was my safe haven.” The girl read how, after the crimes occurred, she “wanted to hide and forget what was happening.” She said she turned to drugs and alcohol to cope, and she saw her GPA drop from 4.33 to 0.33. In time, though, she said she began her path to recovery. “I’m proud that I overcame this and how I grew as a person,” she said. “I knew I needed to be strong.”
Her mother also spoke and directed many of her comments directly at Bristol. “I would guess, Louis, that you still don’t understand what you’ve done,” she said. “You hid behind God to do your evil, and someday you will have to answer to him,” she continued, saying that although she supports the plea deal he received, it will be “longer and harder for them to heal than any punishment you receive.”
Under Bristol’s plea deal, he will serve one year in County Jail — and won’t receive credits for time he already served — plus five years of probation. If he violates any of his probation terms, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Paula Waldman, he will go to state prison for four years and eight months. Waldman explained that some of the original charges against Bristol, including forcible rape, forced sexual penetration by a foreign object, and sexual battery by restraint — which could have landed him 20 years in prison if convicted — could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The charges that could be proved — a lewd act upon a minor, unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, contributing to the delinquency of a minor (by providing her with marijuana), and sending obscene material to the adult victim — would net Bristol the aforementioned four years and eight months in prison, said Waldman, who added that the victims and their families are satisfied with the deal.
That prison sentence is suspended, Waldman said, based on how Bristol handles his probation. If he does anything from contacting one of the victims or dating someone with a child who is a minor to associating with any people under the age of 18 or possessing any sexually stimulating materials, Bristol will have to serve that prison term and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He is also prohibited from visiting or living in Carpinteria or within 2,000 feet of any school, which can be monitored via GPS tracking if the Probation Department sees fit. He will be required to attend sex offender therapy for a year and weekly sex addicts anonymous meetings, among other terms.
“I wish I could go back and change everything about this whole situation,” Bristol said, facing the victims and their families. “I’m remorseful. I hope that there can be forgiveness.”
“My daughter has suffered a lot,” said the mother of the 14-year-old victim. She said that she and her daughter have since moved to Ventura “where no one knows us.” In her statement, she noted her daughter’s sadness and anger over what happened. “All this will follow her for a lifetime,” she said. “This lack of trust is going to last a lifetime.”