Tribune-Courier News Reporter
In a last-minute plea agreement in Marshall County Circuit Court, Robert Byars, 32, accepted a deal resulting in an eight-year prison sentence for first degree unlawful transaction with a minor.
Byars had originally been charged with numerous counts of rape, sodomy and unlawful transaction with a minor who was a member of his church while he was employed as youth minister at Walnut Street Baptist Church in Benton.
The plea deal reached by Commonwealth Attorney Mark Blankenship and Byars’ attorney, recommends an eight-year sentence, sex offender registration for 20 years and completion of counseling. He is also barred from contact with the victim and the victim’s family.
Byars will have to serve at least half of the sentence which mandates an in-jail sex offender treatment program.
As part of the plea agreement Byars will also be required to confess to the crime and issue an apology to the victims.
Circuit Court Judge Dennis Foust accepted the plea just before jury selection was set to begin last week and set formal sentencing for Dec. 16.
Kentucky State Police arrested Byars on July 1 after a complaint that Byars had been engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old girl who was a member of his former youth group.
Police said Byars’ relationship with his former youth group member had become sexual in nature in Dec. 2012 and had continued until his arrest.
According to the arrest citation filed by KSP Officer Corrie Jessup the acts are alleged to have taken place at times on the church’s property at 1605 Walnut Street.
Police said they have pictures and text messages between Byars and the underage girl, as well as a detailed statement from her.
Byars had resigned from his position as youth minister shortly before his arrest.
After Byars was arrested his bond was reduced and he was released from jail, but it was revoked a short time later when police intercepted a letter meant for the teen victim.
According to the KSP, Robert Byars was passing letters from his jail cell to his brother Theodore Byars for delivery to the underage victim associated with the investigation.
Police said the letters contained requests that the victim meet with Robert Byars following his release from jail.