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Evangelist Sentenced in Sodomy Case

February 7, 1989

SALEM, Va. (AP) _ An evangelist who admitted molesting at least 100 boys along the Southern revival circuit since the 1960s was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison today for sodomizing two teen-agers.

″I suppose the thing that troubles me most is somebody of the cloth, who knows the truth, has openly and flagrantly lied,″ Judge Kenneth Trabue told Mario ″Tony″ Leyva. ″There was an overt effort to poison the jury on your behalf.″

Leyva, a 43-year-old Pentecostal preacher from Columbus, Ga., testified at his trial in state court in September that he never had sex with children, but he later told the FBI he had sexually abused at least 100 boys beginning in the 1960s.

Leyva took the stand briefly this morning and said he lied at his trial. He made the admission as part of a federal plea bargain, said defense attorney Harry F. Bosen Jr.

He had faced up to 10 years on the state charges, but the jury recommended 15 months for each count of child sodomy, and the judge could not impose a higher sentence, said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Leach.

In October, Leyva pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and shipping minors across state lines for prostitution.

Federal prosecutors said Leyva and two fellow preachers for years used the Tony Leyva Evangelistic Association Inc., based in Columbus, to gain access to boys for sexual purposes. The three preachers are awaiting sentencing.

Under the plea bargain, prosecutors will seek a maximum of 20 years in prison.

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