Four years ago, Michael Clare was a married pastor at Harvest Worship Center in the Bronx, as well as a principal at Harvest Preparatory Academy, also in the Bronx. Three years ago, in March 2011, he’d made a swift and thorough fall from grace, after a teenage girl, a member of his congregation, then 15, told her parents that Clare had been sexually abusing her since she was 12 years old. Clare was charged with first-degree rape and offered a plea deal that would have required just three years in prison, a very generous offer considering that the teenager had become pregnant, had an abortion, and DNA from the fetus had reportedly been matched to Clare.
Clare rejected that deal, with his attorney Paul Brenner telling the Daily News, “He turned down the plea deal because he’s innocent.” Clare remained free on a $50,000 bond. And then, in March 2012, he was accused of rape again , this time a 14-year-old student at Harvest Prep.
On Wednesday, January 15, Clare, who is now 41, was convicted of two counts of rape in the second degree.
According to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, Clare admitted to sexually abusing both girls. He told them he raped the 13-year-old congregant on March 9, 2007, and the 14-year-old “sometime between September 8 and September 30, 2009.”
Prosecutors suspected otherwise, claiming in their indictment that Clare had sexually abused the second girl on at least three occasions between June 22, 2009 and June 30, 2011. They believe one assault took place at the school, and two others took place at Clare’s homes (yes, plural), one in the Bronx and another in West Harrison, a small town about 20 miles north of the city.
Clare’s Myspace page has been scrubbed, and any mention of him has been removed from the Harvest Worship and Harvest Prep websites. However, someone forgot to take down his YouTube page, which features him sermonizing, sometimes dressed in a tallis, a Jewish prayer shawl. More chillingly, given the circumstances, there’s also a clip of him interviewing a number of teenage girls from Harvest Prep.
Clare will be sentenced on January 30. He faces up to 25 years in prison for each count.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 17, 2014