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Pastor guilty of sexual battery, sentenced to probation

GASTONIA, N.C. – A Gaston County pastor will have to register as a sex offender and is facing 18 months probation.

Harley Michael Keough, pastor of the King James Baptist Church in Bessemer City, was found guilty on two counts of sexual battery for groping several women at his church's food pantry over a three-year period.

The 73-year-old took the stand Tuesday in his own defense and denied everything.

Keough testified he's suffered from erectile dysfunction since the late 1990s. He said engaging in any kind of sexual behavior would have been pointless.

“If I had done what they allege I had done and I just happened to get one of them excited and be called on to perform, I would be kind of SOL, because I’d stand there looking like an idiot because I couldn’t do anything,” Keough said.

But the prosecution argued Keough's medical issues wouldn't stop him from touching people if he wanted to. And prosecutors said the accusers had no reason to lie.

“Did any one of them look like they were having fun on that stand? Did any one them look like they enjoyed being here? No, they didn’t your Honor,” Assistant District Attorney Megan Fontana said.

The judge sentenced Keough to 18 months probation and ordered him to register as a sex offender.