LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) – A pastor accused of having indecent contact with a 3-year-old girl while he volunteered at a church camp in Lebanon County has been accepted into a 23-month intervention program to clear his record.
Benjamin Leese, 39, formerly of Dillsburg, was accepted into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program on Wednesday, according to court records. The program is for first-time offenders with relatively minor charges.
Also at the ARD hearing, Leese was ordered to pay $1,800 restitution. He is allowed no contact with the girl or her family, and he must undergo a sex offender evaluation and comply with any recommendations.
Lebanon County detectives charged Leese with a misdemeanor count of indecent assault in February. They said he was a volunteer at Camp Kirchenwald in South Londonderry Township when he had indecent contact with the girl in July 2018.
The child was attending camp with her family.
The investigation began when the girl’s parents noticed a change in her behavior around Leese and didn’t want to be around him. The parents found the behavior surprising because Leese was a family friend, detectives said.
Leese was the pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in York Springs. He resigned his call to the churches and resigned from the roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on January 25, according to a statement on the Lower Susquehanna Synod’s website.
The Lutheran Camping Corporation of Central Pennsylvania said Leese was a volunteer at the camp for 13 days.