Former Mid-South pastor turns down plea deal in child sexual abuse case

Former Mid-South pastor turns down plea deal in child sex abuse case

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The former pastor of a Tipton County church was in court Monday where he turned down a plea deal from prosecutors.

Ronnie Gorton is facing dozens of charges related to child sexual abuse, including aggravated sexual battery of a victim younger than 13, rape, sexual battery by an authority figure, enticing a child to buy alcohol and sexual exploitation of a minor.

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“We’ve been working with the DA’s office for the last week or so trying to get a deal worked out,” said Blake Ballin, Gorton’s attorney.

Gorton appeared in a Tipton County courtroom Monday after lengthy negotiations between his attorney and prosecutors. Ballin says Gorton started doubting terms of the potential deal when there was no guarantee he wouldn’t die in prison.

“Mr. Gorton came in today thinking we had a deal worked out that he was happy with and he was having second thoughts, and that’s not a position you should be in,” said Ballin. “You should not be having second thoughts when you’re going to plead guilty to this kind of a crime or any crime.”

Ballin said Gorton maintains his innocence and is looking forward to going to trial.

Authorities began investigating Gorton in February 2018, which led to several indictments related to three victims. He was first arrested in March of that year, then again in July.

The indictments resulted in 91 criminal charges. All three cases must be tried separately.

Ronnie Gorton being escorted (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Ronnie Gorton being escorted (Source: WMC Action News 5)

At the time, Gorton was the worship leader at Awakening Church in Atoka. The church has since closed.

Gorton’s first trial is set to start Aug. 26.

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