September 4, 2014
Three men who were sexually abused by a church youth-ministry leader years ago experienced a measure of justice Wednesday as they confronted their abuser in court, read emotion-charged statements about how his crimes have damaged their lives, and heard a judge sentence him to 16 years in prison.
Fernandez, 50, of Nottingham in Baltimore County, pleaded guilty in May to three counts of child sexual abuse, one in relation to each victim. The Baltimore County state's attorney dropped six counts in exchange for his plea.
His conviction came after Jediah Tanguay engaged Fernandez in a telephone conversation last year, an exchange in which Fernandez admitted the sexual abuse as a Baltimore County police detective listened in, tape recorder running.
The defendant showed no emotion as Baltimore County Circuit Judge Jan M. Alexander announced his penalty: 30 years in prison with 14 suspended and a lifetime obligation to register as a sex offender. Fernandez will not be eligible for parole until 2024.
Just before his sentencing, Fernandez briefly apologized to the victims. "I take full responsibility," he said.
A red-eyed Jediah Tanguay later sounded like a man who had laid down a burden.
"It feels really peaceful — that's the only emotion I can really sort out for you right now," he said as his wife, Sarah, stood with him outside the courtroom.
County police have asked that any other victims come forward. Church officials, who have said they knew nothing of the abuse until it came to light last year, issued a statement Wednesday applauding the three men for their courage.
|Jediah and his wife, Sarah, outside the courtroom|
Jediah Tanguay's interaction with Fernandez began in 1987, when Fernandez was the assistant coach of the then 7-year-old's soccer team at Greater Grace Christian Academy, a K-12 private school affiliated with the church.
"He [later] told me he first 'noticed' me when I was seven," Tanguay said in his victim statement, relating how Fernandez "spent years" cultivating their friendship by giving him permission to attend exclusive events, inviting him to Fernandez's house to watch movies and taking him out for ice cream, often alone and usually unsupervised by other adults.
Tanguay's parents, Donald and Janet Tanguay — who belonged to Greater Grace in New England long before the church moved to Moravia Park Drive in Baltimore during the 1980s — said they had always trusted Fernandez.
|Greater Grace church, Moravia Park Drive in Baltimore|
Jediah Tanguay said Fernandez would single out some boys for special attention, inviting them to his house and taking them on trips.
"It was all done with such patience, structure and tact that it left me confused, believing the harm I felt was my own," he said in his statement. "It wasn't that Ray was so bad that made this all so difficult. It was that he was so good at making you feel so special … and most importantly, at getting what he wanted."
Tanguay cited "hundreds of occasions" when Fernandez slipped his hand under Tanguay's clothing, all the while pretending he was doing nothing out of the ordinary.
Fernandez pleaded guilty to one such incident. On a May evening in 1997, Fernandez parked with Jediah in front of the youth's home in Nottingham and engaged him in something like a father-son talk, according to a police report last year.
When he hugged the then 16-year-old, then slid his hand down the boy's pants, Jediah hit him and tried to flee the car, the police report said, but Fernandez sat on him and subdued him.
"For 20 years, I was convinced this was a good man with a big problem," Jediah Tanguay said.
It wasn't until last year that Jediah learned that Fernandez had also molested his brother during roughly the same period.
Evil is often very deceptive. Satan appears as an angel of light; there are wolves in sheep's clothing in the church. Be very aware of those who stroke your ego:
A lying tongue hates those it crushes,
And a flattering mouth works ruin. Proverbs 26:28
For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. Romans 16:18
These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. Jude 16