Gerald Klever, the 76-year-old former associate pastor at Springfield's First Presbyterian Church, limped down the center aisle of a packed Delaware County courtroom yesterday, clutching a walking cane in his right hand and searching for a place to sit.
No one offered to get up. It was not a friendly audience.
Klever, who left First Presbyterian in 1983 when he moved out of state, was in Media yesterday to face up to his sordid past - and to apologize to a furious congregation and two women that he sexually assaulted more than a quarter-century ago.
"What I did was unconscionable, just unconscionable. I know that," said Klever, who now lives in the Catalina Foothills, a wealthy suburb of Tucson, Ariz.
Christine Kuhn has known it for decades, but she didn't get justice until yesterday, when Klever admitted to abusing her in 1980 when she was a teenager. She said he forced her to perform oral sex on him in his church office.
"You're a mother's worst nightmare," said Kuhn, 46, a mother of two.
"In our last conversation in 1983, I promised you that if I ever found out you had hurt anyone else, I would find you," she said. "Do you remember what you told me? You said, 'Someday you'll look back on all of this and laugh.' Well, that someday is here and I am wondering if you still think any of this is funny."
At least 10 other alleged victims have come forward, according to Deputy District Attorney Sheldon Kovach, but the statute of limitations has expired in those cases or the women chose not to pursue criminal charges.
Klever was arrested in January 2007 at his Arizona home and was later extradited to Springfield.
The former Swarthmore resident pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and "no contest" - which has the same legal effect as a guilty plea - to one count of rape. He is expected to be sentenced in July to 10 years probation, the first year of which will be served under house arrest.
He also must perform 1,000 hours of community service, register as a Megan's Law sex offender and pay nearly $25,000 for past and future therapy for a second victim, a middle-aged woman whom authorities say he raped during a pool party when she was 16 years old.
That woman, who requested that her name not be printed, recounted yesterday how the abuse had ruined her life - starting in high school - and led her to use drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain. A friend held her shaking hand as she waited to give her statement.
"I will never be able to get rid of these memories," the woman said, adding that she recently suffered a nervous breakdown. The "permanent images" of the abuse still trigger nightmares and flashbacks, she said.
Klever's wife, Anita, a former news director for Westinghouse Broadcasting Co. in Philadelphia, did not accompany her husband yesterday. Nor was she present for his preliminary hearing last May.
"I am ashamed of myself," he told a courtroom audience that included many First Presbyterian members. He said he is "genuinely sorry" for his acts.
"And I will carry that with me for the rest of my life." *