James Crawford

James Crawford

The pastor of a northern California church has been charged with molesting three girls over the course of seven years, and he faces life in prison if convicted.

James Gladwell Crawford, pastor of Westside Church of Redding, California, had his bail set at $1 million at the Shasta County Jail in connection with 31 criminal counts, including 22 felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, a series of sex crime-related enhancements, and nine misdemeanors.

Shasta County Deputy District Attorney Patricia Van Ert told the Record Searchlight on Friday that although there was no sexual intercourse in the alleged crimes, Crawford is accused of inappropriately touching the girls, who are now 17, 16 and 11, and that he also engaged in other inappropriate behavior.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Crawford Feb. 3 after the alleged molestations were reported, and the pastor pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment Feb. 6.

Get the hottest, most important news stories on the Internet – delivered FREE to your inbox as soon as they break! Take just 30 seconds and sign up for WND’s Email News Alerts!

The Record Searchlight noted dozens of members of Crawford’s congregation came to court on Friday to support their minister.

Aaron Williams, the attorney defending Crawford, had asked that the pastor be released from custody without bail, claiming he poses no threat to the public and is not a flight risk due to his ties to the community.

“He is the ideal candidate to be released on his own recognizance,” Williams said, the paper reported.

Superior Court Judge Cara Beatty noted she has read numerous messages of support for Crawford from local residents, but denied Williams’ request for release now. She did say she would reconsider the matter once Crawford had his preliminary hearing, set for Feb. 28.

Williams indicated he has not yet received all the discovery evidence from prosecutors, but maintains Crawford’s bail is far too high.

“I can’t believe his bail is $1 million,” he told the Record Searchlight.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.